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An Interview with Liu Bolin 和刘勃麟的专访


  by Hannah Chin , Talenia Phua Gajardo
The Hacker - www.voelklinger-hurtte.org (Image courtesy of Liu Bolin)

More passionately known as "The Invisible Man", we have the privilege to find out more from Liu Bolin about the inspiration and meaning behind his works.

 

Have you always felt strongly towards sociopolitical issues? When did it start?

My “Hiding in the City” series of works began in 2005, but the works relating to the slogans made up of big Chinese characters in the background started in 2006.  In my work, I stealthily hide within the publicity slogans - it is my innate behaviour as a living body, used in my art to express my instinctive reaction.  Just like our breath, the air inhalation is not something I can see and react to, therefore the creation of my work is truly an expression of my inner-feelings, and not about politics which I did not think of.

Hiding in the City - No.36 Unity to Promote Education
Image courtesy of Liu Bolin

You must hold great sentiments towards the Chinese Beijing artist village Suo Jia Cun (destroyed by the government in 2005) where you worked from. How long were you there for, any unforgettable memories or particularly memorable works created during your time there?

The Beijing International Art Camp - Suo Jia Cun began at the end of 2004, and it was known as one of the largest gathering places for artists in Asia, with more than 140 artists working there.  While I settled in slightly later in May 2005 and was there for about half a year or so, the memory I had was especially unforgettable.  Everyone had their own artistic dreams, a studio they called their own, and enjoyed creating their own works of art.  When I first arrived, I visited every studio to understand the working condition of each artist, and the feeling is particularly wonderful - like a carefree life in paradise, and that kind of happiness is the most memorable to date.

Hiding in the City - Suojia Village
Image courtesy of Liu Bolin

What about your earlier works (before 2005), are they also touching on sociopolitical issues and your commentary relating to the global social and economic changes?

I studied sculpture during my undergraduate and graduate years, which has no direct relation to using the body in art.  However, it also belongs to the art industry, and the variation in art form is not determined by the skills one has mastered.  In 1999 when I was in graduate school, I had a strong interest in using the body as a medium to express my thoughts.  Then the 911 incident that happened in 2001 struck me greatly, and having witnessed that period in history, I began to creatively use the body in my art.  As an artist, it is essential to have your visions and thoughts towards the society expressed through your artwork.  Although I did not have any special understanding of social and human development upon graduating, my increased travels enabled me to face the world with greater exposure and my vision gradually widened.  The content of my works became richer, and along with my works I grew greatly as a person.  Thus, the topics touching on the problems that arise from the global social changes also continue to gradually mature thereafter.

Hiding in America - No.1 Wall Street Bull
Image courtesy of Liu Bolin

What are some of the emotions and thoughts you have when conceptualizing and creating a work?

The main aim of my work is to express the logic behind the disappearance of the body into the background, and why people disappear into the selected background.  So, when I conceive a piece of artwork, I place great emphasis on the relationship and I carefully choose the background - not like any simple game.  The reason behind hiding in the selected background is a very important factor in every piece of my work.  Therefore, at the time of selection, I will present as much as possible my thoughts towards the society, as well as the contradictory relationships between humans and the civilizations created.

Target - Village
Image courtesy of Liu Bolin

Do you see your work evolving beyond photography? If so, in what way?

My work is not just photography, because photography is only a way of recording.  For example, the whole process of using video to record can be very dull.  Due to the long duration, the audience is unable to comprehend while viewing the work - because the process is not beautiful, and it is also not about communicating how to draw faster and better.  Moreover, in the process I keep moving to overcome my physical strength, therefore in Chinese saying, it is more appropriate to call my work “posed photography”.  I pose, and you photograph.  The result is more important, and because I use the body as a very basic medium of expression, it is not simple photography.  Many people have asked which category is my work more inclined to after all?  Human sculpture, performance art or photography?  I also have not figured out what it is, but I think this method can at least allow people to feel my responsible thinking towards human beings, which is enough.

Hiding in the City - No.93 Supermarket #2
Image courtesy of Liu Bolin

Could one also view your work as encouraging adaptability to circumstances?

The art of thinking is to remove the limitations of human beings; including our creation of civilization and the images and tools used to create the civilization, to think about the real limitations of human beings.  Because of life, living continues, images and technology also continue, so one is unable to avoid the relationship between life and the environment.  Whether to encourage people to adapt to the environment is not the main consideration in my work.  When I present the current helpless situation of people, allowing audience to see my expression of helplessness or the real sense of urgency, the very feeling that is expressed already achieved its artistic purpose.  Thus, to incite adaptability in people is not a problem to be solved.

Hiding in the City - Mobile Phone
Image courtesy of Liu Bolin

Which work(s) do you feel most attached to, and deem to be the best representation of your body of work?

It has been 12 years since I started the series of “Hiding in the City” in 2005.  During this period, I constantly try to strengthen and deepen my career and artistic language, continuously challenging myself in the iconic works I have at different stages.  For instance, through one work I think about another work, thus opening a new field and making the work symbolic.  I like work that has a turning point, but I also like the other works very much; only that they do not have a turning point that’s all.

 

You stood for almost 10 hours for the creation of the piece "The Future". Can you elaborate on this experience?

On September 25, 2015, the United Nations 193 member states’ summit was held in New York, primarily to consider the future of the United Nations sustainable development goals. They found me, and allowing me to use my hiding technique I created this work.  Hidden in a background made up of flags of the 193 countries and the small logos of the 17 development goals at the summit. The 17 sustainable development goals are no poverty, zero hunger, good health and well-being, quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, decent work and economic growth, industry, innovation and infrastructure, reduced inequalities, sustainable cities and communities, responsible consumption and production, climate action, life below water, life on land, peace, justice and strong institutions, and partnerships for the goals.  I place the small logos of these 17 goals and the flags together, representing a beautiful yearning for the future of mankind.  In my art, it partially bears the beautiful wishes and discussions for the future of mankind.  And apart from the discussion of reality, I feel that having a beautiful goal for the future is also one of the purposes of art.  When designing the background combining the flags and the 17 logos, because the flags have relatively simple solid colours - red, green, yellow and blue are all commonly used colours, I did a lot of designs and ultimately it took a lot of effort to have the two letter “UN” hidden in the background.  At the same time, I was also raising the English sign of “Future” in my hands, and hiding it in the background too.  This is the first time I tried hiding myself together with the big characters in my work.  Throughout the whole process, using my hands to raise the sign made my arms ache very much, and it was a high intensity workout for my deltoid muscle.  My arms were already numb by the time this work was completed, so this experience was particularly unforgettable.

The Future
Image courtesy of Liu Bolin

The latest series of works "Art Hacker" (Solo Show at Klein Sun Gallery in December 2016), marks your shift towards the virtual world, exploring this new territory artistically through Post-Internet Art. Can you tell us more, about your investigation of the internet and digital age, and the future?

As mentioned, art should have a blessing and wish for the future.  In April 2015, I had my first Art Hacker exhibition at the MD Gallery (Magda Danysz Gallery) in Shanghai.  It was about me hiding in the pictures taken of about 10 different levels of government websites in Europe, and trying it put it back online.  Because I think that China’s experience in this area has slowly come to the forefront of the world.  Mankind has passed the industrial era, went through war, and experienced a scavenging consumer society.  The structure of the whole world, through the network society to the intelligent era, just like Google is already saying that people will obtain eternal life – how everyone is slowly becoming immortal, leading a completely different way of life through mobile software.  The Hacker itself is a very important symbol of our time, such as services the internet and smartphone software bring us, it has really changed our lives and even our future direction.  When I use my work to explore our future, I discovered that we are not only in war with real life; like the refugee crisis, the Hainan oil rig dispute, and the currency war, war in the virtual world of the Internet has also started.  The theme of my first exhibition is called the war between images, because the hiding between network management, as well as the exchanges and confrontation with the network police, have all become possibilities in art discussion.  To be in contact with reality, the reality of technology and the image generated by such technology, I use the mobile phone to have a live broadcast of China’s haze.  I constantly connect the problem in real life with the virtual world, and continuously engage in a discussion.  This is what artists of our time must do, and to pave the way for the next generation of artists.  Because the artworks of every era can symbolize this era, I do not know what my work is but I try to use my work to the greatest extent to reflect and think about our real problems.

The Hacker - www.104.fr
Image courtesy of Liu Bolin
The Hacker - www2.assemblee-nationale.fr
Image courtesy of Liu Bolin

 

你一直对社会政治有着强烈的感受吗?是什么时候开始的?

我城市迷彩系列的作品是2005年开始的,但拍与大字有关的作品是从2006年开始。我的作品中,我把自己隐身于宣传标语的大字里,只是我的本能反应,作为生命体,我是用艺术作品来表达我生命本能的反应。就像我们的呼吸,把空气吸入呼出,这是我没有办法看到的,没有做出反应,因此做出艺术作品,只是把我内心的真实感觉表达出来,但是不是政治,我没有想过。

 

你一定非常怀恋当时在中国北京索家村艺术区工作的日子。你在那里有多长的时间?在那段期间有没有难忘的回忆或创作了难忘的作品?

在2004年的年底索家村国际艺术营就开始入驻了,当时是号称亚洲最大艺术家聚集地之一,有140多个艺术家在这工作。而我是2005年的5月份才入驻的,我入驻比较晚,在这大约有半年多的时间,但是在这的记忆是让我特别难忘的,学艺术的人都有自己的艺术梦想,拥有自己的工作室,尽情的去做自己想做的艺术作品。我刚来的时候,我去拜访每个工作室,去了解艺术家的工作状态,就觉得特别美好,好像在天堂里无忧无虑的生活,那种开心快乐是我至今难忘的。

 

你在2005年之前的作品也涉及社会政治的话题,和你对全球社会和经济变化的评论吗?

我本科和研究生的学习是雕塑专业,和用身体来做作品没有很大的关系,但也是属于艺术的行业,而艺术的变化不会因你掌握的技巧而确定。1999年我在研究生期间,我对用身体作为媒体去表达思考,有浓厚的兴趣,之后2001年的911事件也给我很大的刺激,真正的见证了那段历史以后,我开始有了用身体去做作品的创作方法。作为艺术家,就是要把自己的视野以及自己对社会的思考,慢慢的通过作品给表达出来。但离开学校,我对社会及人类的发展并不是特别的了解,但随着我旅行的增多,眼界慢慢变宽,面对世界,我的视域越来越宽,因此一步步的把作品也丰富起来,而我跟着我的作品,把自己的成长也丰富起来,所以关于全球社会变化,出现的问题等主题都是后来一点一点不断成熟起来的。

 

你在概念化和创造作品的时候有着怎样的情绪和想法?

我的作品主要是把身体的消失在背景中的逻辑关系表达出来,就是人为什么要消失在所选的背景之中,因此在我构思一件艺术作品的时候,会更强调关系,选背景的时候会很谨慎,而不是像简单的游戏。隐藏在选定背景的因由是我每件作品中很重要的因素,所以,在选择的时候,我对社会的思考,对人类及人类所创造的文明和人类矛盾关系,都会尽可能的在我的作品中呈现出来。

 

你的作品会超越摄影吗?如果是这样,会是通过什么方式?

我的作品不仅仅是摄影,因为摄影只是它的记录方式,比如说用Video去进行记录,但是整个拍摄过程会很枯燥,因为时间太长,观众在看这件作品的时候反而会费解,过程并不美,也不是交流怎么样画的更快,怎么样画的更好,而且在过程中我克服自己体力会不断的动,所以我的作品用中国话讲,叫摆拍更贴切,就是我摆好,然后你来拍,最后的结果是更重要的,但是我又用身体作为很基本的媒介来表达,所以这并不是简单的摄影。很多人问过我,到底你作品更倾向于哪一个类别?人体雕塑、行为艺术还是摄影?我自己也没搞清楚,这是什么,但我觉得这个方式,最起码可以让人感受到我对人类负责任的思考,这就够了。

 

人们是否也可以将你的作品视为对环境和形势的适应性吗?

艺术的思考是把我们人类的局限,包括我们人类所创造文明以及创造文明的图像、工具拿出来,来思考我们人类真正的局限性。因为你的生命、生活要继续,图像以及技术也在继续,所以你无法回避你的生命和环境的某种关系。是否要激励人们去适应环境,在作品中并不是我主要考虑的,当我把人类无奈的现状呈现出来,让观众看到我所表达的无奈感或者现实的紧迫感,把这个感觉表达出来的时候,就已经达到了它的艺术目的,而激励人们去适应,就已经不是艺术要解决的问题了。

 

你对哪些作品最有附属感,并认为最具有代表性?

我从2005年拍城市迷彩作品到现在已经12年了,在这期间,我一直尝试把自己的事业、语言不断的强化、深化,不断的在挑战自己,我在不同的阶段有标志性的的作品。比如我通过这件作品想到了其它的作品,打开了新的领域,它就具有标志性。我会喜欢有转折性的作品,但其它的作品我也很喜欢,只是不具有转折性而已。

 

你在创作“未来”这件作品时站了将近10个小时 -你能不能描述一下这个经历吗?

2015年的9月25号,联合国的193个成员国的峰会在纽约召开,主要是考虑联合国未来的可持续发展目标。他们找到我,让我用隐身的方式,做了这件隐藏在193个国家的国旗以及峰会的17个发展目标小标识拼凑而成的背景中的作品。这17个可持续发展的目标分别是消除贫困,消除饥饿,良好健康与福祉,优质教育,性别平等,清洁饮水与卫生设施,廉价和清洁的能源,体面工作和经济增长,工业创新的基础设施,缩小贫富的差距,可持续性城市和社区,负责任的消费和生产,气候,水下生物,陆地生物,和平、正义和强大机构以及促进目标实现的伙伴关系等,我把这17个目标的小标志与国旗放在一起,成为人类对于未来的美好的向往。在艺术中,它一部分承载了对人类未来的美好的祝愿和讨论,除了对现实的讨论,我觉得对未来有美好的目标,也是艺术的职能之一。在设计把国旗跟这17个图标放在一起的背景的时候,因为国旗的颜色都是比较简单的纯色,像红绿黄蓝,都是比较常用的颜色,因此做了很多设计,最终费了很大的力气,把”UN”这两个字隐藏在这个背景中,同时我的手上也举了英语拼写未来“future”的牌子,我把这个字也隐藏在背景里面,这也是我第一次尝试把自己跟我的大字一起隐藏。在整个的过程中,我用手举着那个牌子,胳膊会很酸,我的三角肌得到了极大的锻炼,当这个作品拍完,胳膊已经麻木了,所以这次的经历让我特别的难忘。

 

你在凯尚画廊2016年12月的个展呈现了最新系列《艺术黑客》的作品,表示着你向虚拟世界的转变,通过后互联网艺术探索这个新的艺术领域。你可以告诉我们更多关于你对互联网和数字时代,以及未来的搜索吗?

我之前讲过,艺术必须要对未来有祝福、祝愿。在2015年的4月份,在上海MD画廊是我第一个关于艺术黑客的展览,内容是我把欧洲的大约10个不同级别政府网站的图片拿下来,把我隐藏在图片中,重新放在网上的尝试。因为我觉得中国这方面的体验已经慢慢的走到了世界的前面。人类已通过后工业时代,经过战争,又经历了抚平伤痕的消费社会,整个世界的格局,经由网络社会,到了智能时代,就像谷歌公司已经在讲人们马上就要永生,每个人都已经慢慢的变成了上帝,通过手机软件,都拥有了完全不一样的生活方法。而黑客本身就是我们这个时代很重要的标志,比如互联网或者智能手机的软件带给我们的服务,已经真正改变了我们的生活,甚至是我们未来的方向。我用作品去探讨我们的未来的时候,我发现我们不光在现实生活中的战争,像难民危机,海南石油争夺、货币的战争,在网络虚拟世界的战争也开始了,我第一个展览的主题就叫做图片之间的战争,因为和网络管理之间的躲躲藏藏,和网络警察的之间交流、交锋,已经成为艺术讨论的可能。必须跟现实、现实的技术以及技术所产生的图像发生联系,所以我用手机直播中国的雾霾,我把现实中的问题和虚拟世界不断的联系起来,不断的进行讨论,这是我们这个时代的艺术家必须要做的,也是为下一代的艺术家做铺垫,因为每个时代的艺术作品,都是能够象征这个时代的,我不知道我的作品是什么 ,但我尽量的用我的作品来思考我们现实中的问题。

 


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