Liu Bolin, the Chinese artist known as “the invisible man” for using painted-on camouflage to blend into the backdrops of his photographs, has done it again by making himself and 22 others “disappear” into the red seats of a Beijing theatre.
Liu, who says the invisibility is a metaphor for the plight of ordinary people in modern society, spent hours motionless with the models as his team of painters painstakingly mimicked the colours and lines of the plush seats on their clothes, faces and hair.
“In China, people have maintained the red-themed uniformity lifestyle for a long time, especially common people. They have even injected the uniformity of behaviour or thinking into their blood,” Liu said at the event on Thursday.
“I would like to question this issue through this work and tell the audience and people who have interest in my work that this issue has some problems.”
Also a sculptor, the 40-year-old artist has won international recognition with exhibitions in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, the United States and Latin America.
Liu’s “Hiding in the City” series featured him hidden in plain sight against monuments, murals, buildings and scenes of everyday life in Beijing, Venice, New York and other places.
Called “Red Theatre”, the latest project is Liu’s third to make a group vanish and one of more than 100 “invisible works” he has completed since 2005. Liu covered a similar “red chair” topic in 2010 at Milan’s La Scala opera house, but said he also wanted to do it in China.
The invisibility theme was originally done as a protest against the demolition of Liu’s studio when authorities razed an artists’ village in Beijing but then he fell in love with this way of presenting his ideas.
Liu, who used his techniques to disguise the rock band Bon Jovi for the cover of their latest album “What About Now”, spends three or four hours to finish a work with a relatively simple background but up to four days when dealing with more complex surroundings.
At the theatre, Liu and the others put on army fatigues and face masks to protect their skin before being painted. Dong Zhaoyan, a 32-year-old saleswoman, said enduring hours of absolute stillness was worth it to take part in Liu’s creation.
“I have no idea how my face looks right now,” said Dong. “Being at this event means so much to me.”