Hide in the city - Paris 03

Liu Bolin

Date : 2011

Medium : Photography

Size : 118 x 150 cm


The “Hiding in the City” series is a profound and sensitive reflection on the human condition. “I do not blend into the background; rather I am taken over by my surroundings”. The artist is not looking for a way to disappear to demonstrate the loss of individual conscience, but is making a statement on the damage to individuals caused by urban economic development – a kind of silent grip where man has lost his ability to adapt.

This photograph was taken during a performance in the vault of Societe Generale’s historical central branch in Paris.


The guide

Watch out! We are not alone! Look carefully at the photograph. Do you see the artist?

Like a chameleon, Liu Bolin melts into his surroundings. His artistic practice has been described as “urban camouflage.” Here the Chinese artist, a sculptor by training, transforms his own body in a work that transcends every medium. Is it a sculpture, a performance, a painting, a photograph? It’s a little bit of all of these, in fact.

At first, the artist is inspired by a place: powerful or symbolic architecture, a landscape that speaks to him, a striking interior. This is the vault room of Societe Generale’s central branch.

Then, with the help of a dozen assistants, he begins the erasing process. Liu Bolin situates himself in the space, places himself “on stage.” His body is at once the subject matter and the medium.

Touch by touch, brushstroke by brushstroke, Liu Bolin allows himself to be painted with a troubling trompe-l’œil. He nevertheless keeps his eyes open because he supervises the smallest details on monitors, giving his approval at each step and to the final result.

In the end, once the camouflage is perfect, the photograph, the indelible trace of this long process, is taken.

But why go to all this effort? Let me explain.

Disappearance is the paradoxical means Liu Bolin has found to attract attention. By simulating his disappearance into his surroundings, the artist raises questions about the place of man in society. This is an especially important theme for the Chinese artist, whose work is part of a cultural context where the human being is caught between uniformity and individuality.

Amazing, don’t you think?