Ai Weiwei and JR - Political Artists and Artist Activists

Keywords: activist artist, dilemma of representation, movement artist scholars, political artist, refugee crisis


The article will address Ai Weiwei’s and JR’s political engagement with the refugee crisis in their work, the former as a political artist and the latter as an activist artist. Ai, in a series of conceptual installations and the feature film Human Flow, as did JR at Tecate on the Mexican-US border, sought to shed light on the securitization of migration and the hollowness of neoliberalism’s human rights discourse. More generally, the article will interrogate the roles of the socially concerned political artist and the socially involved activist artist. I argue that Ai and JR strategically employ their celebrity status as darlings of the West neoliberal art world to undermine the securitization and human rights discourses from the ‘inside’.

Author Biography

Abby Peterson, University of Gothenburg, Sweden

Department of Sociology and Work Science



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