A gaggle of laughing, smiling celebrities in emergency blankets posing for selfies at a fundraiser arranged by Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei's didn't sit well with some Berlin officials.
Ai created a powerful statement on the world's refugee crisis by wrapping the pillars of Berlin's Konzerthaus — concert hall — with 14,000 orange life vests to commemorate refugees drowned at sea. as well as to honour the hundreds of thousands of people fleeing their lands for safe harbor in Europe.
But the emergency blanket stunt with wealthy stars inside didn't work as well. Ai brought together several celebrities — including Charlize Theron and Pussy Riot member Nadya Tolokonnikova — at a Cinema for Peace fundraiser inside the concert hall, where they all took selfies wrapped up in emergency blankets.
Tim Renner, Berlin's culture secretary, complained about the event on Facebook. "When Ai Weiwei illustrates the dimensions of terror outside with 14,000 life jackets from Lesbos, it is perhaps not subtle but effective and justified; but when the guests of Cinema for Peace are prompted by the organiser to don emergency blankets for a group photo, even if understood as an act of solidarity, it has a clearly obscene element," he noted.
Most people responding to Instagram photos of the Cinema for Peace event posted by Ai Weiwei were disturbed or perplexed by it. One remarked: "Not your best work, or am I missing something? Irony, perhaps, they all look amused but foolish and self absorbed. Is that your point? Do they realise its a criticism? I don't think so."
Added another: "Not sure why but this image makes me very uneasy, not in the way the artist #aiweiwei wanted."
But others thought the giddiness, the self-absorption, the waste of the event was intended by Ai to make a point about the refugee crisis. "It's a metaphor for these privileged people who wrap themselves in gold everyday," noted one.