Marina Abramovic – The Lovers: The Great Wall Walk (still), 1988/2008, performed for 90 days along The Great Wall of China. 16mm film transferred to two-channel video
Artists Marina Abramovic and Ulay are known in many parts of the world as the lovers whose relationship ended at the Great Wall of China. Initially, when the couple planned the trip, they intended to get married at the center of the wall. However, it was years later when the couple finally acquired all the authorization required from the Chinese government and were able to raise funds for the projected. Sadly, by then, the couple’s 12-year relationship has crumbled and what started out as a marriage celebration turned into last goodbyes for the couple. The couple had planned to be the first people to walk the entirety of the Great Wall, however, they were beaten to the punch by a Chinese railway clerk.
Liu Bolin – Hiding in the City No. 2 – Suo Jia Village, 2005
Many artists find new and unique ways to focus on social issues that affect their lives and the lives of others around them. While some art meant to stand up for those who do not have the ability to speak out against injustices happening to them, art can also be inspired by events that directly impact the artists themselves. Art can be used as a way to draw attention to problems that are prevalent or hidden in society, it can be used to create space, and it can also be a tool to instigate change.
Artist Liu Bolin was born in China’s Shandong province and studied at the Shandong College of Arts and the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. Bolin’s works have been exhibited in museums across the globe allowing him to gain international notoriety. What he has become most famous for is his series titled “Hiding in the City”.
Bolin’s series began as an emotional reaction to the destruction of Chinese Beijing artist village Suo Jia Cun, in which studios were demolished. This displacement of artists serves as an example of the precarity in which artists in China face. “Hiding in the City” was Bolin’s silent protest of the destruction of Suo Jia Cun. His protest was also meant to bring attention to the absence of protection of Chinese artists. In his “Hiding in the City” series, Bolin uses his body and paints himself into a variety of settings in Beijing. Through using his body and inserting himself into art and by placing public spaces into his scenes, he creates a space for Chinese artists fighting the precarity that their status often held in China.
Bolin’s work draws attention to the various social problems that come with China’s fast growing economic development. Bolin paints himself into the background of various man-made structures, using products and slogans as a satirical and highly political statement within his works as a focus throughout the background. While he is absorbed into the background and all but ceases to exist, Bolin is questioning the environment in which he lives. Each background that he has selected has specific and profound meaning.
Bolin questions what the meaning of human beings is in modern society, in which, industry, the environment, society, and individuals themselves are constantly changing. He challenges the ideas of people and place, which is why many of the spaces he chose to be painted include landmarks, construction zones, gardens, retail and public art spaces.
As evident in his use of colors and pop art theme, Bolin’s style is inspired by Picasso and Andy Warhol. In order to create his scenes, Bolin has a team of assistants who spend several hours camouflaging him with paint to help him become one with the chosen background. Not only does he use imagery that is recognizable in modern society, he uses himself within these scenes as a political statement directed at today’s society and the place people hold within it. Bolin combines vibrancy and politics in a way that is not only visually pleasing, but also effective at engaging the audience with the backgrounds that have been carefully selected, thus communicating a silent message to the audience.
Liu Bolin – Hiding in the City No. 3 – Suo Jia Village
Liu Bolin – Hiding in the City No. 4 – Chinese Contemporary, 160x105cm
Liu Bolin – Hiding in the City No. 15 – Beijing New Art Project, 2006
Liu Bolin – Hiding in the City No. 16 – People's Policeman, 2006
Liu Bolin – Hiding in the City No. 17 – People's Policeman, 2006
Liu Bolin – Hiding in the City No. 18 – Laid Off