Friday, December 11, 2009


Meet Liu Bolin, a Chinese artist who loves to get lost in his work—literally.
Bolin, who holds an M.F.A. from China’s Central Academy of Fine Arts, knows how to make himself disappear right in public. The secret? You just have to become part of the canvas.

Bolin’s “Hiding in the City” series is a creative set of photographs depicting the artist himself standing in various scenes, his fully-clothed body painted to match the background with an expert precision. Bolin is surprisingly hard to see in most of the images. Amazing what a solid ten hours of patient, artistic labor can accomplish for a person!

There’s a good reason for Bolin’s disappearing act. In 2005, when he was living in Beijing’s northeastern village of Suojiacun, the Chinese government decided to bulldoze the area and displace Bolin and a hundred or so other artists from their homes. “Hiding in the City” is a direct result of this experience and a creative reaction to the persecution of artists in China.

The project is also meant to portray the rebellion against society’s “system”—a system that left Bolin feeling like he didn’t really fit in anywhere.

These photographs may seem a little weird, but they do tell a very interesting story. It’s a story about a man fighting against the powers that be—with paint.

Liu Bolin trained in one of China’s finest art academies—under one of China’s most prominent artists—and four years later he was homeless. Under the pretext of Olympic redevelopment the Chinese government bulldozed the buildings of Suojiacun, a gritty artist village in northeastern Beijing, putting around a hundred artists on the streets. In protest Liu Bolin stood amongst the wreckage while two of his friends painted his entire body, camouflaging the artist into the scene. The work of art crystallized a decisive moment of destruction in China’s path towards cultural development. It also set Liu Bolin off on his first major series, Hiding in the City, which has been lauded by critics, embraced by the establishment, and exhibited in China, France, Italy, the United States and Korea.