Curator Emma Thomson
Liu Bolin / Camouflage examines Liu Bolin’s career over almost two decades; from his best-known Hiding in the City series initiated in 2005 until the present day. The exhibition aims to demonstrate how the artist’s strategy of camouflage has allowed him to produce images which resonate globally with viewers across time and place.

Staged and photographed in-situ Liu Bolin’s images depict meticulously painted human bodies – often his own – hiding in the surroundings of everyday spaces and places.

Through the feeling of connection that we share with the human bodies depicted, the viewer is invited to question how the dominant perspectives at play in everyday spaces and places shape our sense of self; feelings of pain, violence or loss, as part of a broader human search for mutual understanding and connectedness.

In this way the camouflaged body can be thought of as vehicle for thinking and making change; a metaphor for the idea of ethical living, where freedom from domination, fulfillment of one’s own potential and the exercise of human rights, along with the call for simpler ways of being in the natural world, are at the heart of the artist’s struggle.

Liu Bolin was born in 1973 in the Shandong province of eastern China, where he continues to live and work. His artistic commitment 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 many museums and institutions worldwide. He has collaborated with prominent artists including Kenny Scharf, JR, Jon Bon Jovi, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Fernando Botero, Carlos Cruz-Diez and Annie Leibovitz. In 2013, Liu presented a TED Talk, which has been viewed by millions of viewers online. In 2015, he was commissioned by the United Nations Global Goals campaign to create an image to promote 17 goals — including ending poverty and encouraging sustainable development and the fight against social injustice and inequality — where he faded into the backdrop of 193 country flags.

On Monday 19 August the Ballarat International Foto Biennale presented a live performance by Chinese contemporary artist Liu Bolin at the Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens in Melbourne. Liu Bolin’s images are not created with photomontage. They are created in the place where he camouflages himself. The creation of this new artwork in Melbourne involved six hours of careful staging of the scene, hyperrealist painting and then the final photograph was taken – all right there in front of the building. To see a beautiful videography of the day by Melbourne based artist Tim Hiller, please see the link attached and to find out more, come and see the exhibition!

Making of Royal Exhibition Building & Carlton Gardens Video

Zhuang Zhou Dreaming of Being a Butterfly and The Debate of the Joy Fish
Liu Bolin’s works can be situated in the Urban Mimicry Art Movement which has a long history of critiquing the monumentalisation of nation. However, there is something about the playful, participatory and dialectical nature of his imagery that is distinctively Chinese and can be situated more specifically in Chinese philosophical thought. Specifically, the Zhuangzi, an ancient book of stories which shares the same open-ended, playful tone that can be felt in Liu Bolin’s works. To read two stories from the ZhuangziZhuang Zhou Dreaming of Being a Butterfly and The Debate of the Joy Fish – please see the link attached and to find out more come and see the exhibition!

Two stories from the Zhuangzi

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