Good fences make good neighbors is not the only project Ai Weiwei has been working on. The world-renowned social activist, artist, filmmaker, architect, and a former refugee spent 2016 documenting the ever-growing global migrant crisis for another humanity inspired work, Human Flow. A heartbreaking documentary that shines a light on the global emergency affecting millions of global citizens. The results of war, hunger, persecution, and the damaging effects of climate change have forced over 65 million people to flee their homes in the pursuit of humane living conditions. The staggering growing number of refugees is the biggest displacement since World War II.
During his yearlong project, Ai Weiwei and his team visited over 40 refugee camps throughout 23 countries including; Afghanistan, Bangladesh, France, Greece, Germany, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, and Turkey. This overwhelming crisis leaves displaced families having to resort to a nomadic lifestyle full of uncertainty, scarcity, and danger. Often tearing families apart, leaving children orphaned at a time in their young innocent lives are unable to grasp the magnitude of their situation. Without nurture and love, they desperately need it.
There’s a heightened threat from right-wing international political groups advocating for the establishment of borders to prevent unauthorized migration. The world is under high uncertainty and divided by rising animosity and threats of nuclear war, financial crisis, social disintegration, and loss of humanness. Currently, the United States government officials are involved in back and forth nonpartisan talks regarding the proposed wall on the border of Mexico, and DACA (The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) “an American immigration policy that allowed some individuals who entered the country as minors, and had either entered or remained in the country illegally, to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and to be eligible for a work permit.” As of last year, there are about 800,000 Dreamers living in the United States. Currently under threat of definite deportation. These are just a few of the issues affecting our global society where the majority of its leaders are driven by greed.
As a response to this global crisis, Ai Weiwei has collaborated with the Public Art Fund to bring us “Good fences make good neighbors” the artist’s most ambitious public art display yet. Often noted as the capital of the world, New York City is the ideal platform where millions of people migrate to, and from with the dreams of experiencing magical experiences, and endless opportunities.
Over 300 works spread around the 5 boroughs of the city make up this grand public presentation. Large-scale installations stationed throughout some of New York’s iconic locations include; the Washington Square Arch in Greenwich Village, the Unisphere at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens, and at the entrance to Central Park, on the Doris C. Freedman Plaza. This last location is where you’ll find the Gilded Cage. An immersive display of majestic opulence meant to reflect the neighborhood where it stands and the “privations of confinement”.
The 24 feet tall structure located at the southeast entrance of the park is made up of gilded steel rising arches enclosing an inner ring. The ring displays symmetry and harmony created by repetitions. The combination of rococo and art deco aesthetic is interrupted by blocked off turnstiles similar to those found in New York subways, and the border crossings between Mexico and the United States.
The threatening display is juxtaposed by geometric architecture beautifully framing the natural botanical elements of the park. A small cut out portion allows visitors to walk in for a full immersive experience. A chance to experience the limitations of depravations of freedom, and the natural beauty available for all to see. Another reflection of New York City. A city where hard concrete structures cohabitate in harmony with the splendors of nature.