Liu Bolin—the Invisible Art, the Repeat and the Lost

Topics: Beijing, Chinese dragon, Invisibility Pages: 5 (1371 words) Published: December 4, 2013
Bridge: Critical Reading & Writing Assignment

Liu Bolin—the Invisible Art, the Repeat and the Lost

Liu Bolin, a Chinese artist who has mastered the power of invisibility and successfully used it to gain an international reputation. As the most known “invisible man”, Liu Bolin stands out by blending in. The Invisible Man includes controversial photographs such as the image of Liu Bolin’s face replacing that of Mao’s in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, and several scenes against iconic Chinese national monuments like the Temple of Heaven and famed Nine Dragon Wall (hiding in the city series). Coming after the fame from “Hiding in the City” series, Liu Bolin continued using exactly the same form to work on photographs of hiding in different cities, such as “Hiding in New York”, “Hiding in California”, and “Hiding in Italy”.

Even Though Liu Bolin’s “The Invisible Man” series has won accolades for the art powerhouses and there is praise all over the international media, almost all of his photographs essentially repeat the same techniques and concepts, and protest the history, culture and pride of his own country.

The Infinite Repeat
Artist Liu Bolin began his "Hiding in the City" series in 2005, after Chinese police destroyed Suo Jia Cun, the Beijing artists' village in which he'd been working. With the help of assistants, he painstakingly painted his clothes, face, and hair to blend into the background of a demolished studio. Since then, the so-called "Invisible Man" has photographed himself fading into a variety of backgrounds all over Beijing and many other cities. Spot him embedded in a Cultural Revolution slogan painted on a wall, or spy him within tiers of supermarket shelves stocked with soft drinks. The process of all these works has never been changed since 2005: Liu stands still for hours as his assistants paint him to match his surroundings, which helps him to disappear in the scene. And things became even meaningless when Liu Bolin blended himself in New York, California and Europe. He is just a tourist, who takes pictures as he travels in different city, but invisible as people always see in this works.

When I’m looking at Liu Bolin’s art works in the exhibition at Eli Klein Fine Art, New York, I feel like I was lingering in a small circle and could not get out. I was drowned in the numerous fell-alike photos, which have extremely similar backgrounds, scenes, mood, colors, subjects, and the same person—Liu Bolin, who is the artist himself.

In the series Dragon Panel, there are nine photographs of Liu Bolin blending into the colored wall with traditional Chinese dragon sculptures. Besides the different colors of the paint coating and the movements of the dragons, which is literally not the point, all of these photos have the same perspective, same lights, same size and same Liu Bolin blending in at the same position in each photo.

It’s really easy to tell that many of his works are just repeat of himself. He painted himself to fade in the magazine rack in Beijing (2011) and New York (2013). If I have to say there is something different, it would be the languages on the magazines when people look at the photos very close. Super market seems like another inspired place for Liu Bolin as he painted himself so many times to blend in soft drinks, fast noodles, toys, and vegetables… which happened in different years since 2009. There is a photo named “in front of red flag” (2006) caught my eyes in which he is blending in Chinese National Flag. Not surprised to me, in 2007, he blended three families, which look similar, into the same background—the Chinese national flag, and named those work “family”. At the same year, he created another work using American national flag and named it “American National flag”. Single countries can’t satisfy Liu, in 2008, he created another work name “UN flag” using the UN flag.

A few examples
“Hiding in the City” series, the Dragon Panel 2010, 4 of 9:...
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