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Ai Weiwei covers Austrian palace in 1,005 life jackets

The artist’s latest installation, ‘F. Lotus’, appeared at Vienna’s Belvedere Palace this week

Ai Weiwei has brought his controversial life jacket installation to Vienna’s Belvedere Palace, just five months after its first appearance at a Berlin concert hall.

The installation, titled ‘F. Lotus’, is currently covering the Austrian’s gallery’s baroque pond. It features 1,005 floating life jackets from the Greek island of Lesbos; spread across 201 floating rings, and arranged into the letter “F”.

Much like the Berlin piece earlier this year – which saw Ai cover the city’s concert hall with over 14,000 jackets – the installation is an attempt to draw attention to the Syrian refugee crisis. “There are more than 500,000 life jackets left on (Lesbos) and it looks like a landscape,” the artist told reporters this week. “It is something so related to individuals. It could be the last thing you grab when you have to escape.”

Ai’s involvement in the migrant crisis has already been widely documented. Over the last year, the Chinese artist has posed as drowned Syrian toddler Alan Kurdi, forced a room full of socialites to take “emergency jacket” selfies, and closed his Danish exhibition early in protest at a controversial asylum law. In May, it was also announced that he had shot over 600 hours of footage in Greek and Macedonian refugee camps, and was planning on releasing a film on his findings.

“It’s a documentary film, we have been shooting (for) over 600 hours, I did hundreds of interviews,” he revealed. “The film is going to come out next year. Now we are still doing last (shoots) since the refugee situation is continuous, it doesn’t seem (like) it is going to stop.”