Liu Bolin: Camouflage

The “Invisible Man” makes an appearance at the Ballarat International Foto Biennale

Liu Bolin vanishes in Bus Stop, 2012 (left) and Sunflower No. 1, 2012 (right).

A stark white wall of mobile phones. Shelves and shelves of magazines in an American news agency. Rows of blue and orange vinyl seats filling the UN’s General Assembly Hall. A mountain of stringy, rotten garbage. At a glance, and from a reasonable distance, these might be the quick summaries one’s eyes and brain make when looking at the photographic work of Liu Bolin. None of these descriptions sound particularly remarkable nor exceptional, but accept the invitation to look closer, and one will notice something quite extraordinary; each picture is disturbed by a faint and glassy shape. It is the barely visible form of a man, the artist himself, hiding in each frame in plain sight. Having mastered a unique practice that crosses and fuses photography, painting, performance and optical art, Liu Bolin cleverly camouflages himself with meticulous applications of acrylic paint (without digital manipulation) that allow him to blend almost seamlessly into backgrounds of environments that bare social, cultural or political importance. For Liu Bolin, the invisibility in which he veils himself and others in his artworks addresses tensions between society and the individual, and is symbolic of the powerlessness felt by those who identify as anonymous and insignificant.

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