Manifesto without Borders


Manifesto without Borders


There are 70 million refugees across the world. Ai Weiwei has now dedicated a ‘Manifesto without Borders’ to them. The artist presented his book at a conference in Berlin on 5 November 2019 with the former human-rights commissioner of the federal government, Markus Löning. Before Ai Weiwei was permitted to leave China in 2015, then federal foreign minister Guido Westerwelle had campaigned for his release. In his opening speech, Professor Karl-Heinz Paqué, Chairman of the Board of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, recalled that, as an artist, Ai Weiwei had become a figure of freedom, a representative of the open society like no other.

There was a lot of interest in Ai Weiwei. With his art he regularly criticizes violations of human rights

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The experience of being a refugee has accompanied Ai Weiwei since his infancy. The son of a Chinese dissident, he grew up in exile; later, he lived in New York, returned to China, was then arrested and prevented from leaving the country. His book, published by Kursbuch, focuses on the issues of humanity and being a refugee. The feeling of losing and leaving one’s home has also shaped Ai Weiwei’s art again and again in recent years. He had not chosen the topic of refugees, said Ai Weiwei. It was governments and circumstances that turned people into refugees. Looking back at the political developments China had undergone in recent years, he summed up, almost laconically: ‘The political situation in China has never changed.’ Asked about his own political understanding, Ai Weiwei made clear that it was not him who was the dissident, but that China had a ‘dissident government’. As an artist, he considers it his task to find a language for his experiences and thoughts, to render visible the process leading to all of us having a deep humanitarian involvement. Markus Löning also criticised the political elite. All too often, the focus was on the risks of a globalised world rather than its opportunities; all too often, a politician’s field of vision was narrowed to his or her own constituency.