"I use a sniper’s technique," said Liu Bolin in a TED talk in 2013, commenting on his famous series Invisible Man, these photo-performances where the Chinese artist uses camouflage to blend into the landscape in his photographs. A chameleon artist, through his own dissimulation Liu Bolin creates a tension in the image, a tension that calls for a response, a reaction from the viewer.
The background in his photographs, whether it be a supermarket shelf or an iconic tourist spot, often appears as predatory. "Some would say that I disappear into the landscape," he says. ‘Personally, I would say that it is the environment that swallows me up."
Reenacted so often, in so many places on the planet, his work is penetrated with the idea that in this world there are countless ways to be swallowed, countless ways to be denied one’s individuality. It might be the city’s environment that shrinks you down to a shadow on the wall; it might be our consumer society, with its shopping malls, its mass tourism, its entertainment industry, that threatens to absorb you.
In parallel with his photographic work, Liu Bolin continues to practice sculpture ‘ the medium with which he started as an artist - and creates human figures made of electronic components, motherboards, USB cables. This sculpture work completes, and in one way illuminates, the Invisible Man series. It proceeds from the same vision of humanity in jeopardy, and invites us to question whether our species isn’t perhaps on the path to being dissolved into the technological, economic and political structures of the contemporary age.
The question is asked with some insistence, but always in an open-handed, non-authoritarian way. Liu Bolin favors hushed tones and silent interventions. Literally and figuratively, he disappears into his creations. In his photo-performances, it is the viewer who needs to lay bare the meaning of the work, who needs to spot the outlines of his silhouette and reveal the human form. In the end, this perpetual disappearance is above all a pretext for putting Man back into the picture. An exhortation to make him reappear.
Liu Bolin was born in 1973 in Shandong province, eastern China. He graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Shandong Fine Arts University, and a Master of Fine Arts from the Central Academy of Fine Arts of China. His works are regularly exhibited in galleries and museums around the world. He lives and works in Beijing.