Ballarat International Foto Biennale

Ballarat International Foto Biennale headline artist Liu Bolin isn’t shy in making a stand on global politics.

The internationally-renowned performance artist and photographer was born in 1973 in the Shandong province of eastern China, where he continues to live and work.

His artistic journey began in the 1990s as China was recovering from the devastating effects of the Cultural Revolution, with its economic development on the upswing and the stabilisation of its political situation.

Liu’s photographs and sculptures have been exhibited in museums and institutions worldwide. His 2013 TED Talk has been viewed by nearly 1.5 million people online.

In 2015, Liu was commissioned by the United Nations Global Goals campaign to create an image to promote 17 goals— including ending poverty and encouraging sustainable development—where he faded into the backdrop of 193 country flags.

We spoke to Liu about how he came to be known as the invisible man.

What’s the inspiration behind your camouflage installations?

I began the series Hiding In The City in 2005 following the destruction of Suo Jin Cun, the artist village I was working in at the time. I wanted to use my art to depict my disapproval of the situation and as a protest against its forced demolition. Specifically, I used the stillness of my body and my ability to blend in to the landscape as a form of silent protest. This camouflage represents those forgotten workers of the Chinese economic revolution.

How do you make yourself and your subjects ‘invisible’?

I work in collaboration with a number of artists and production staff over a period of several hours. The act of becoming invisible or blending with the background is the key performative element of the work. The photograph itself is the visual record of this performance. The photograph allows the performance to remain immortal and my silent protest to continue in perpetuity.

What have been some of your favourite collaborations to date?

I have been fortunate to collaborate with some extremely talented artists and people. Some of my most memorable are working with (French artist) JR at the Louvre in Paris and also on projects with Kenny Scharf, Jon Bon Jovi, Jean Paul Gaultier, Fernando Botero, Carlos Cruz-Diez and Annie Leibovitz.

What can we expect from your Ballarat exhibition?

The exhibition aims to demonstrate how my strategy of camouflage has allowed me to produce images that resonate globally with viewers across time and place. It takes viewers through my concerns regarding ethical living, freedom from domination, fulfilment of one’s potential and human rights. Audiences can expect an explosion of colour, a reimagining of the typical art gallery environment, incredible moments of interaction, contemplation and solace. For this exhibition, I have worked with leading exhibition designers and curators to create a memorable experience for all those (children and adults) interested in art and global politics.

What: Liu Bolin’s Camouflage exhibition, part of the Ballarat International Foto Biennale
When: Now until October 20
Where: Art Gallery of Ballarat, 40 Lydiard St Nth
Book: ballaratfoto.org

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