Mehta Bell Projects were delighted to present a unique performance by Liu Bolin. Whilst the iconic photographic artworks by the artist are much acclaimed and collected, Bolin has often referred to his practice as a performance, yet there is very little live exposure of these physical performances. It is this fascinating aspect of the artist's oeuvre that was highlighted at START 2017 in a live performance. This was the first time that Bolin's work was showcased as a time-based performance in the context of an art fair.
Took place at START 2017
Debut live performance and interview session
Coverage on Sky News, Daily Telegraph, Evening Standard
Although this facet of Bolin's work is rarely presented in public, it is the performative element that is truly at the heart of the artist's practice and concept of his 'invisible man'. His photographs are essentially documentation of Bolin's laborious and physically demanding process. Very often it is misunderstood that his photographs are digitally manipulated to 'blend' him into his background. However in actual fact, what makes these artworks truly enthralling is that the artist has painstakingly posed right in front of his chosen backdrop, while his carefully directed team embark on the scrupulous task of gradually painting him in to the background, by hand and in situ.
The specially commissioned sculptural backdrop was designed by the artist and made from thousands of LEGO bricks sponsored by Brick Live. The sculpture depicted a cluster of colourful sunflowers, referencing Van Gogh's epochal symbol that has become one of the icons of Western art, whilst also alluding to the use of the sunflower in Chinese culture to inspire young children. The sunflower is a heliotropic flower, as its head always rotates to face the sun. Bolin talks about how as young children in China, they were taught to be like little obedient sunflowers who always face the sun. In 2014 there was a mass Taiwanese student uprising called the 'Sunflower Student Movement' in protest to a trade agreement with the People's Republic of China. The artist comments on a form of social conditioning, as by the end of the performance Bolin became lost in the cluster of plastic sunflowers, virtually rendered invisible, thus echoing the feeling of many who may feel that they lose their right to voice their own individual opinions.
START were pleased to collaborate with Brick Live on this project and on the revealing discussion held at the Saatchi with the artist himself, curators Mehta Bell Projects and moderator Farah Nayeri from the New York Times.