Ai Weiwei wants to raise awareness about refugee crisis

ATHENS, Greece — Chinese artist Ai Weiwei wants to raise consciousness about the plight of refugees through his, and his students', art.

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Ai, who has made his name as much through his clashes with Chinese authorities as through his art, has set up a studio on the Greek island of Lesbos, the main point of entry for hundreds of thousands of refugees over the past year. The studio will produce several projects with themes related to the refugee crisis from him and his students, Ai told reporters.

"As an artist, I have to relate to humanity's struggles...I never separate these situations from my art," Ai said.

Ai warmly praised the people of Lesbos as having "very good understanding" of the refugees' plight and their needs and for being "very helpful and very tolerant" but emphasized their "very limited resources" to deal with the issue.

He also praised several foreign non-governmental organizations doing "very impressive work", mentioning especially groups from the Netherlands, Norway and Spain, but also said there is a lack of awareness in Europe and the rest of the world of the situation and willingness to act.

"The border is not in Lesbos, it really (is) in our minds and in our hearts ," Ai said.

Ai told The Associated Press he expects to visit Lesbos several times over the next year, or even beyond, if the crisis persists beyond 2016. He said about six to 10 artists, students of his in China and Germany, will be working at the studio.


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