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.




18 comments:

  1. I've seen a bit of Liu Bolin's work somewhere. They are actually team works, aren't they, as we see in the video? I found "Hiding in the City - Red No. 2' (image #5 on the website) most stunning and provocative. Thanks for finding and sharing, Susan. I'm going to look at some more...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Team works with him as director, perhaps? It's funny you also were drawn to that particular image. There's another that struck me in a similar way that's also red hued - one of him sitting alone in a theater in the Venice series.

      Delete
  2. this is very moving. that country has a ways to go toward "civilized" in my opinion! I appreciate you sharing his work as its new to me.

    hoping spring is beginning to appear in your neck of the woods!! xoxox and much love!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree, Linda. I'm also glad you enjoyed seeing the images he creates.

      Now we have piles of icy mounds that are gradually melting - at least those days when the sun shines.
      xoxo

      Delete
  3. Replies
    1. and I thought it was Devolution.

      Delete
  4. Excellent! I'dnot heard of him before.Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's always good to find someone new to us.

      Delete
  5. Liu Bolin - all new material to me. These are powerful images.... he's so still through it all, and there's no suggestion of judgement or preachiness. Just an invisible artist, standing in full view. interesting some of the things he's invisible amongst..... things that might be considered to take the place of art in our high-speed culture. And interesting also, that these images impeccably depict the sense of invisibility i have when i play a gig sometimes.... especially at a sparkly, high budget event. they want me there for the music, but i don't really exist for most of the people there. Thanks for this. I wonder if anyone who isn't already appalled at the lack of support for the arts in much of the 'civilized' world will get it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The images are powerful enough that I've been drawn back to them often since I saw them the first time. There are a couple of very striking ones that show him painted white against a white backdrop being held by a policeman.

      I knew what you meant as soon as you said you often feel invisible when you're playing at a soiree. Just the kind of event where that would most likely happen but still hurtful all the same. I think some people are too self involved to ever get it.

      Delete
    2. A very dear friend had his annual garage party last night. Musicians and music lovers from all around come to this - it's always packed. When my turn came to play (everyone is allowed to do only 3 songs apiece.... And it can go all night) the hum of conversation stopped completely. I mentioned to them the idea I have that "consideration for 'servants' - and musicians are definitely considered servants at sparkly events attended by 'important' people - consideration seems to diminish in direct proportion to the increase in the value of jewelry worn to the event." And I said, "I get it. I'm invisible. It's what we learn to expect. As I pack up my gear and leave, I feel a strange sense of relief, as I think, 'these are not my people', Then I come to an event like Franz's garage party, and I think, 'yes! THESE are my people." I think they agreed. The applause was deafening.

      Delete
    3. Why do I get the feeling your friend has a very large garage? It sounds like a great party with absolutely no chance of the rugs getting spoiled. What you told your friends and acquaintances there is absolutely right. If I'd been there I would have been applauding too. Silly rich people really have no idea how much fun they're missing and what wealth of knowledge and insight too.

      Delete
    4. i know i posted this reply once before, but...... (click echo / reverb pedal) LOST... in cyberspace........

      the garage isn't huge... a modest 2 car size, all made of reclaimed materials, walls lined with concert posters and miscellaneous tools. there's a wooden staircase along one wall, to the loft above where the kids play board games or watch a movie and hang out - the odd adult will go up there to tune an instrument, away from the roar of conversation below. it's a pretty cool space. very functional, practical and personal. he mounts a few old theatre spotlights from the ceiling, pointed at the 'stage', and strings a few lines of Christmas tree lights up there, for ambiance. instrument cases are stacked against the closed metal doors, for the width of the room. people bring those folding lawn chairs for seating if they want it, otherwise, it's standing room only. there's a big metal barrel with a fire going just outside the man door, for the smokers to hang around and keep warm by and chat with the horses in the nearby corral, while they get their fix. inside, the garage is heated by a big old barrel stove. Franz usually makes Bratwurst and sauerkraut for his contribution to the pot luck, and sets it on the barrel stove to keep warm. It really is the best party of the year, always held near my birthday, which, though not planned for my benefit, still feels like a very special treat.

      Delete
    5. That sounds like a very good place for an honest to goodness party - big enough to give people space but still cozy, especially so with the lights, stove, stage, and music. I can understand more and more how it is you love that area. Franz must be a very cool character of the old school variety.

      I'm sorry you lost your original reply. I've taken to writing comments of any length into text edit so I can copy/paste just in case that happens. It's come in handy as a habit on more than a couple of occasions.

      Delete
  6. Thank you for introducing me to this remarkable artist. Invisible, but bold as hell. Wow, there is no end to the amazing things I learn here at your blog, Susan!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed seeing his work. I think he's become a national treasure in China but he wasn't at first.

      Delete
  7. Hi Susan
    Lovely work
    Susan’s gift, wrapped in color,
    erudite words; icicles draped in ecstasy,
    Contemplate life's endless streams.

    Like joyous rain, a raging storm.
    Awaken my feelings of a new dawn,
    Refreshed.
    B/ wishes

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks again, Lindsay. Please keep looking after yourself.
      Best wishes to you and your family.

      Delete