To be or not to be: that’s the question of Liu Bolin

36-year-old Liu Bolin, from Shandong, China is a talented invisible man creating more than just startling images with his works. His images make a statement about his place in society. He sees himself as an outsider whose artistic efforts are not always valued, especially in his native country. Standing silently in front of his chosen scene, in locations all around the world, he uses himself as a blank canvas. Then, with a little help from an assistant, he paints his body to merge as seamlessly as possible with what is behind him. His work requires a lot of patience with him having to pose and work on his photographs for more than ten hours at a time to get it just right. Meanwhile, people walking by while he is carrying out his performances often have no idea he is nearby until he begins to move.

Bolin claims that he wants to show how city surroundings affected people living in them. The inspiration behind his work offers a sense of not fitting in to modern society and seems as a silent protest against the persecution of artists.

In one of his interviews, he says:

‘Some people call me the invisible man, but for me it’s what is not seen in a picture which is really what tells the story. After graduating from school I couldn’t find suitable work and I felt there was no place for me in society. I experienced the dark side of society, without social relations, and had a feeling that no one cared about me, I felt myself unnecessary in this world. From that time, my attitude turned from dependence into revolting against the system.’

When the Chinese authorities shut down his art studio in Beijing in 2005, he was further pushed on with his work. He said:

‘At that time, contemporary art was in quick development in Beijing, but the government decided it did not want artists like us to gather and live together. Also many exhibitions were forced to close. The situation for artists in China is very difficult and the forced removal of the artist’s studio is in fact my direct inspiration of this series of photoshop-free photographs, Hiding In The City.’


Liu Bolin’s works are reminders of the existing ‘invisible’ problems trying to question the community we live in and make us become aware of the hidden problems that are covered on purpose and tried to be kept invisible by most of the governments in our modern world..

One Response to “To be or not to be: that’s the question of Liu Bolin”

  1. Liu Bolin has been doing his Hiding in the City series since 2005. It started as a political commentary on the tensions between the Chinese government and their people and the identity an environment gives an individual and vice versa. Liu Bolin will be exhibiting at Eli Klein Fine Art in New York from June 29 – August 28, 2011. Eli Klein Fine Art represents him exclusively in North and South America. More images can be found on

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