Remember Liu Bolin, the chameleon artist who managed to perfectly hide himself amongst such backdrops as the Beijing Bird Nest, the Great Wall and the Temple of Heaven? He’s back, and this time he’s bringing with him a “giant iron fist, poised to punch a hole through Modern China.”
Bolin has recently hidden himself away at a steelworks factory in Hebei’s Tangshan, hard at work on sculpting this enormous fist. The sculpture—which weighs more than seven tons and stands at twelve feet tall—is set to premiere in Paris later this month, when Xi Jinping is scheduled to visit France.
In an interview with AFP, Bolin said that this latest piece comes from his “reflections on the realities of China,” adding that “people are under pressure from so many things – their living conditions, the political situation, even the air around us.”
The sculpture is a return to Bolin’s roots: The artist was originally trained in sculpture, but turned to photography in 2005 when his studio was forcefully demolished in the artist village of Suojia just outside Beijing. As a response to this forced demolition, Bolin began working on a photography series entitled “Hiding in the City” that would eventually elevate him to celebrity status within the art world.
“I switched from using sculpture to performance and photographs because it was difficult to use sculpture to express my feelings about this,” he said. “A sculpture would have taken too long to design and construct—during which time, my feelings might have changed. So I chose to disappear into the background instead.”
In a TED talk given last year, Bolin discussed the thinking behind his Invisible Man photographs and how they are meant to examine the relationship between culture and development:
“From the beginning, this series has a protesting, reflective and uncompromising spirit,” says Bolin. “I think that in art, an artist’s attitude is the most important element. If an artwork is to touch someone, it must be the result of not only technique, but also the artist’s thinking and struggles in life.”
The presence of consumerism in Bolin’s photographs has garnered comparisons with Andy Warhol, but he says his focus was not on consumerism: “Andy [Warhol] was maybe on the positive side, praising that society,” he said. “I pay more attention to food safety in China.”
One of the concepts behind “Hiding in the City” was how smog in China has made compatriots like himself invisible – in an interesting twist of fate, he chose to cast his iron fist in one of the most polluted industrial cities in China. On the day of his interview with AFP, the air pollution in Tangshan was the highest in China. Of the smog, Bolin said: “It’s a real cause of anxiety. There’s nowhere to hide…there is smog in the air, and it’s impossible to only have us inhale, not exhale.”
For an interview between Bolin and Crane TV, click here.
By Alex Stevens
[Image via YouTube]