Wednesday, February 27, 2013
the disappearing artist
I wasn't familiar with the work of the artist Liu Bolin until a year or two ago when I ran across his amazing Invisible Man images on the web. What was most intriguing to me was the question about what had precipitated his idea of hiding in plain sight as a camouflaged man in mostly urban settings.
In 2005, the Beijing International Artists Camp, the world's largest community of Asian and Western artists, was ordered to be destroyed by the Chinese government with almost no prior notice. Riot police accompanied by bulldozers stopped the most vibrant art experiment in the history of China by knocking down more than a hundred artist’s studios. Liu Bolin was one of those artists. Prompted by his emotional response to the demolition of this site, Liu decided to use his art as a means of silent protest, calling attention to the lack of protection Chinese artists had received from their own government. Using his body by painting himself into various settings in Beijing, he created a space for the Chinese artist, preserving their social status and highlighting their often troubled relationship with their physical surroundings. That first series is called 'Hiding in the City'. Bolin followed up his Beijing series with two similar series of performances captured in Venice and New York City - Venice for its significance within the Western art tradition and New York City for the potency of the underlying conflicts between humans and the objects they create.
Liu Bolin isn't looking for a way to disappear as a person but encourages us to examine the damages caused by the economic and urban development on individuals. If you're interested in seeing more this site has a large collection of his work. If you're even more interested this video shows how one of the images is made.