THE BLOG
06/06/2014 11:30 am ET Updated Aug 06, 2014

Liu Bolin - Hiding in the City

Click here to watch the TEDTalk that inspired this post.

Liu Bolin's "Hiding in the City" series stems from his questioning of, and reflection on, the development of manmade civilization and its social problems. His work illustrates that amid the accelerating progress of society, our living environment has significantly improved, while humans are becoming increasing lost about the meaning and value of self -- sometimes even allowing the self to disintegrate. The artist's Chinese army training uniform and disappearance into the background are deliberate and metaphoric gestures of protest against this loss.

In terms of subjects, "Hiding in the City" covers sudden changes in our material environment; the drastic yet subtle change in human nature and spirit; people's decrying of the pollution of food, water, air or even "spirit" in recent decades; and an invisible sense of helplessness in society -- all of which are constantly transforming through time and space.

From its inception in 2005 to the present, the series has evolved alongside the rapid transformation of society, with both the cityscapes depicted in the work and the underlying concepts themselves shifting over time. The artist's continued contemplation and self-reflection have also made the series deeper and he continues to explore new possibilities with the work.

Liu's creative process can be divided into stages:

1. Selecting a shooting location - First, Liu considers the cultural characteristics and landmark architectures or sites of the city, and reflects on his personal experiences there.

2. Preparing the team - Once a location is selected, but.prior to the photo shoot,,Liu recruits fine arts students or artists to form a creative team and explains to them the creative process of the work.

3. Painting the artist - Liu dresses in a Chinese army training uniform and stands before the backdrop he's selected while the creative team paints his body and uniform to make him blend into the backdrop. The duration of painting depends on the complexity of the composition; it can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days.

4. Photographing the artist - Once the painting process is complete, Liu is immersed in his surroundings, and the scene is photographed.

As you can see, "Hiding in the City" is a series born of different art forms including performance, painting and photography. Liu Bolin himself considers this series of works as "social sculpture," a term coined by artist Joseph Beuys, who described social sculpture as "how we shape the world in which we live."

By making himself invisible, Liu Bolin is shaping the world.

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