More than 80 photographs from Liu’s most important work entitled Hiding In The City spanning 14 years will be exhibited at the Art Gallery of Ballarat from 23 August 2019 as the centrepiece of the 8th iteration of the Ballarat International Foto Biennale.
Popularly known as The Invisible Man – Liu Bolin sprang to prominence as part of a generation of artists struggling with the consequences of the Cultural Revolution and China’s rapid economic development in the decades after. His work explores social concerns, most prominently through his unforgettable ‘camouflage’ installations.
Traversing performance, photography and activism, Liu’s art dissects the tense relationship between the individual and society by ‘disappearing’ himself into environments and challenging the viewer to find his body in the image, Where’s Wally-style.
Liu’s first ‘disappearance’ took place in 2005, when an art college where he worked was forcibly demolished. As an act of protest, he too disappeared into its ruins. His Hiding in the City series has prolifically expanded outwards, with subjects from the Bird’s Nest stadium in Beijing to the sinking architecture of Venice, and has been displayed in prestigious museums and institutions across the globe. Rather than any digital manipulation, he uses only paint, brushes and his now-famous canvas suits, and is required to stand for up to ten hours as he’s painted by assistants in front of a location.
Inspired by his powerful imagery and committed political stance, artists such as Annie Leibovitz, JR, Carlos Cruz-Diez, and Kenny Scharf have invited Liu to collaborate on projects. In recent years, he has welcomed others to be painted too, with enthusiastic participants including Jean Paul Gaultier and Jon Bon Jovi.
In 2013, Liu was invited to present a TED talk in California, and in 2015, he was selected by the United Nations-backed campaign The Global Goals to create an image that conveyed 17 goals – including ending poverty, encouraging sustainable development, and fighting inequality and injustice – where he hid himself within 193 flags of the world.
“We’re delighted to have an artist of Liu Bolin’s international stature as the centrepiece of the 2019 Program and more than delighted that he will be able to attend the Biennale personally,” said Artistic Director Fiona Sweet. “His astonishing work has long grappled with the concerns facing a globalised world. Combining body art, optical art, living sculpture and photography, he turns disappearance into an active expression of resistance.”
The theme for the 2019 Ballarat International Foto Biennale is Hello World – with a polite gesture acknowledging the many challenges facing a globalising world in areas of ecology, rights, race, capital and conflict – as well as the omnipresence of the digital era and its rapid re-invention and re-interpretation of photography.
The only photographic biennale in Australia, BIFB has played a leading role in the support and presentation of the photographic arts since its inception in 2005, providing a platform for art and ideas from photographic artists across the world as they engage with our complex world.
For the first time, BIFB will extend to 60 days and 60 nights – where the work of over two hundred photographic artists will be exhibited in the laneways, galleries and grand venues of Ballarat from 23 August – 20 October 2019. For more information, visit: www.ballaratfoto.org for details.
Image: Liu Bolin (supplied)