Liu Bolin: By making myself invisible, I try to question the inter-canceling relationship between our civilization and its development. Interpreter: By making myself invisible, I try to explore and question the contradictory and often inter-canceling relationship between our civilization and its development.
LB: This is my first work, created in November 2005. And this is Beijing International Art Camp where I worked before the government forcibly demolished it.I used this work to express my objection. I also want to use this work to let more people pay attention to the living condition of artists and the condition of their creative freedom. In the meantime, from the beginning, this series has a protesting, reflective and uncompromising spirit. When applying makeup, I borrow a sniper's method to better protect myself and to detect the enemy, as he did. (Laughter)
After finishing this series of protests, I started questioning why my fate was like this, and I realized that it's not just me — all Chinese are as confused as I am. As you can see, these works are about family planning, election in accordance with the law and propaganda of the institution of the People's Congress.
This work is called Xia Gang ("leaving post"). "Xia Gang" is a Chinese euphemism for "laid off". It refers to those people who lost their jobs during China's transition from a planned economy to a market economy. From 1998 to 2000, 21.37 million people lost their jobs in China. The six people in the photo are Xia Gang workers. I made them invisible in the deserted shop wherethey had lived and worked all their lives. On the wall behind them is the slogan of the Cultural Revolution: "The core force leading our cause forward is the Chinese Communist Party." For half a month I looked for these 6 people to participate in my work. We can only see six men in this picture,but in fact, those who are hidden here are all people who were laid off. They have just been made invisible.
This piece is called The Studio. This spring, I happened to have an opportunity during my solo exhibition in Paris to shoot a work in the news studio of France 3 — I picked the news photos of the day. One is about the war in the Middle East, and another one is about a public demonstration in France. I found that any culture has its irreconcilable contradictions.
This is a joint effort between me and French artist JR. Interpreter: This is a joint effort between me and French artist JR.
LB: I tried to disappear into JR's eye, but the problem is JR only uses models with big eyes. So I tried to make my eyes bigger with my fingers. But still they are not big enough for JR, unfortunately. Interpreter: So I tried to disappear into JR's eye, but the problem is JR uses only models with big eyes. So I tried to make my eyes bigger with this gesture. But it doesn't work, my eyes are still small.
LB: This one is about 9/11 memories.
This is an aircraft carrier moored alongside the Hudson River.
Kenny Scharf's graffiti. (Laughter)
This is Venice, Italy. Because global temperatures rise, the sea level rises, and it is said thatVenice will disappear in the coming decades. This is the ancient city of Pompeii. Interpreter: This is the ancient city of Pompeii. LB: This is the Borghese Gallery in Rome.
When I work on a new piece, I pay more attention to the expression of ideas. For instance, why would I make myself invisible? What will making myself invisible here cause people to think?
This one is called Instant Noodles. Interpreter: This one is called Instant Noodles. (Laughter) LB: Since August 2012, harmful phosphors have been found in the instant noodle package cups from every famous brand sold in China's supermarkets. These phosphors can even cause cancer. To create this artwork, I bought a lot of packaged instant noodle cups and put them in my studio, making it look like a supermarket. And my task is to stand there, trying to be still, setting up the camera position and coordinating with my assistant and drawing the colors and shapes that are behind my body on the front of my body. If the background is simple, I usually have to stand for three to four hours. The background of this piece is more complex, so I need three to four days in advance for preparation. This is the suit I wore when I did the supermarket shoot. There is no Photoshop involved. Interpreter: This is the suit I [was] wearing when I did the supermarket shoot. There is no Photoshop involved. (Laughter)
LB: These works are on China's cultural memories.
And this one, this is about food safety in China. Unsafe food can harm people's health, and a deluge of magazines can confuse people's minds. (Laughter) The next pieces of work show how I made myself invisible in magazines of different languages, in different countries and at different times.
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 struggle in life. And the repeated struggles in life create artwork, no matter in what form.
That's all I want to say.
Thank you. (Applause)