By disappearing into his artwork, the artist Liu Bolin is not simply becoming invisible, but transforming into the message itself. Individual human beings have been the smallest unit in the fabric of history since the very start: they are in a mutually constitutive relationship with society which is concomitantly produced and producing, preserving the power to shape relationships and be shaped by them at the same time. By working through these multiple layers of human life, Liu Bolin hones away the skin which separates individuals from the whole, scattering their presence within the natural landscapes of the melting Arctic, amongst sites of mass consumption or in front of the flags of the world. He hides the individual in places where he is most present: through this camouflage, his works of art and performance explore the relationships between the single and the collective, which appear to be in a fundamental contradiction in our current world order. Through photography, sculpture and performance, the artist explores the themes of development, technology, poverty and misery, denouncing the profoundly human issues that are often overlooked by the giant steps of our civilisation. Through his silent protest, Liu Bolin speaks with the loud voice of humanity.

 

Today we have the pleasure of talking with The Invisible Man. How would you describe yourself through your artworks? 

 

In my works, I will paint my body full of colors and disappear into our common environment. If you are not paying attention, you may not notice my existence. When choosing a background, I generally choose some common scenes that constantly appear as a background in the development of human society. I use my works to question the mutual restrictions and contradictory relationships between human development and the civilization we create.

 Fragmentization Life Series Watch the Phone for 11 minutes

What is the role of the individual in society? Are these in contradiction with each other? 

 

The individualis consciousness shaped in society, and the way in which society needs you to think about it, enables you to educate yourself. At the same time, society develops through the presentation of each individual. This is a very contradictory relationship: human society needs to be manifested and created through individuals, and at the same time, it does not want humans to dominate too much.

 

What moves you to create? What are the major issues in our modern world you aim to address? 

 

I have an unruly personality by nature, and I don't like to follow established rules. As an artist, one should inherit and develop an artistic style and think about the causal relationship between artistic style and the history of human development. We humans have reached a stage of civilization based on virtual technologies, represented by the Internet and mobile phones. Artists need to slowly discover the possibilities of new technologies and images to solve eternally new debates on the themes of love and humanity.

 

Many of your photographs depict the natural world, as well as the human world. Do you believe humans are the disease of the earth? 

 

I agree with the statement that human beings are the disease of the earth. As the fear of life and the evil of human nature are both present in the same dimension, we face and process information coming from these two levels almost every day. I have a pessimistic attitude towards human beings. This theme has always appeared in my works. In addition, I believe that human beings live on the earth as the testing ground of a certain advanced civilization. During the epidemic, I was thinking: who created us and what was his purpose in creating us? Perhaps we are a virtual program created by some higher civilization, experimenting the process of life and self-destruction in a certain field.

 

How does technology connect with your artistic commitment? 

 

Human beings produce different technologies in different stages of civilization, and art is the activity that makes technology connected to the activities of the human soul. I recently used 3D printing technology to record the joys, sorrows, sorrows and joys in scenes of human life. I was recreating similar things. Once the image relies on new technology and the possibility of new discussions on the image appears, art will show new vitality.

 

What is your opinion regarding NFT? 

 

NFT has recently become a very popular word and activity, which belongs to the new rules of the game in the stage of virtual technology. Buying and selling images and virtual scenes, in essence, is no different from a Picasso painting bought by a certain oil magnate, but this kind of transaction is how young people like it now. NFT is the beginning of Internet predators stepping onto the stage of history and declaring that they can dominate the world in the future. The rules of the future human world are made by them.

 

Is art finally able to make invisible issues, visible? 

 

Art is the direct introduction of shortcut buttons to the human soul through image discussion. When people enter art galleries and churches and temples, the energy field they must cross is the same: they are seeking spiritual nourishment from another dimension. Art can’t solve the immediate problems you are faced with, but it can help you nourish your soul, think about where you come from and where you are going. This question is the same as thinking about why you have your current surname, and the answer comes from a very far-reaching position.

Hiding in Italy Sala del Trono Reggia di Caserta

Love with USB No.1

Digital Print 2

Moncler Iceland No.2

 

As our environment is becoming more and more tainted with the remnantsof our consumption, it is essential to take a step back to reconsider how we engage with the objects we possess, remembering the journey that not only precedes them, but also will follow once they are outwith our control. Do objects come with responsibility? This is the question which defines our relationship with the material world and lingers behind the artistic devotion of Mary Mattingly, a visual artist based in Brooklyn, NYC. Her works range through photography, collaborative sculpture, performance and land art, expressed in some of her collective projects such as Swale, an edible landscape floating on a barge in New York for fresh food foraging; Public Water, a public artwork and campaign on the city’s water supply chain; or the Waterpod Project, exploring the possibility of nomadic and mobile water-communities. The building of these independent living systems repre-sents a need to reimagine the ways we will live together as a community in the present and future. Along with these urban ‘ecosystems’, Mattingly has also thoroughly explored the themes of sustainability, possession and waste, tracing the maps which underlie the life of objects that surround us every day.

Through her series ‘Nomadographies and Wearable Homes’ and ‘House and Universe’, she was able to capture the nature of humankind as a constituent part of the environment, constantly roaming and transforming with it. Through the contrast of local and non-local spaces, whose interdependency is ever so evident in supply and waste chains, Mattingly presents an allegorical collection of photographs embracing the connection between climate disasters and consumption. In 2013, she decided to bundle almost all of the objects she possessed in seven large bundles which were pushed or rolled through the streets of New York. Afterwards, she began a digital archive of all these objects, emphasising their history before parting with them: from their extraction from the earth, to their journey into the hands of makers and distributors, to the impact of chemicals dispersed in the air and water. In her own words, each object is embedded with trauma. Though this practice, she wished to shed light not only on the weight that reduces our mobility, but also on the material relationships within the objects themselves and their impact on others. In her photographs, it becomes clear how the answer to the question is yes: we are responsible for our waste of time and the Sisyphean burden of objects we collect throughout our lives, but we are also able to take the lead and cultivate our lightness.

 Mattingly Pull

Where did it all start? When did art become your main language? 

 

My father taught me how to use a camera and I started building sculptures to photograph when I was young. I enjoyed composing in the camera and photographing something I made within the world around me, it gave me emotional distance to better reflect upon daily life. But when I started building sculptural spaces to inhabit, and life could unfold around the sculptures, art became my main language. 

 

How did you first approach sustainability with your art? What led you in this direction? 

 

Growing up in an agricultural community where the drinking water was polluted from pesticides made me aware of how fragile access can be to basic daily needs. I also grew up in a home where we reused almost everything. I first approached ecological concerns in art through focusing on water. I built sculptural and wearable water purification systems. Eventually, I began focusing on food and shelter, two other necessities that are tied to a host of questions and concerns about access, sustainability, and environmental change. 

 

What is the connection between art and the earth? In your opinion, what is the role of the artist in times such as the climate crisis we are facing?

 

Often artists are in a dialogic relationship with the earth. Much of the art I make literally comes from the earth, whether the soils or plants, or the minerals mined to make the objects I reuse. Art questions and it asks the people who experience it to question as well. The questions art provokes don’t necessarily have answers. Art often evokes contradiction, which is an essential human condition. I believe people like artists who imagine alternatives hold a powerful instrument for change and also need to use their gifts to contribute to a global movement combating climate change. 

 

Could you describe your most precious creation ever made, and why it is important to you? 

 

In 2013 I bundled all of my belongings into seven boulders to iconify my own consumption. Some of the belongings I had carried with me for twenty years and had saved from when I was a child. Before I bundled them, I documented most of them, in some cases even making 3D scans. The bundling process felt like building a time capsule, it was at once a cleansing and a reminder. 

 

In a series of your photographs you represent our relationship with possession, waste and the environment. What do you think must change in our consumer culture, in order to both avoid waste and enable our being to flourish? 

 

Consumer culture has entire industries that support it, from advertising to some news to market research. People in these industries need to help create a systemic change of purpose, and that will happen by these people doing it on their own or people outside of these industries compelling a change of purpose. What must change is purpose.

 

What responsibility comes with the ownership of our objects? 

 

Every freedom comes with responsibility, and I believe some of the responsibilities people hold around objects include: not to waste, to reuse and repair rather than buy something new, and to understand how the current pace of extraction is not sustainable. It affects all of us, including the land, water, air and nonhumans. When systems of production, trade, and consumption use the social and ecological space of others, it is a form of violence.

 

 

In your own words, what is beauty to you? 

 

I find beauty in most things, especially things humans do and make, but it stops me in my tracks when people consider more just and equitable worlds through utopian imagining. 

 

Would you describe art as an extension of your life or as life itself? 

 

Absolutely, I don’t see a difference. Life is filled with large and small rituals, all of which are art.

 

What are the main teachings you wish future generations will carry with them? 

 

That art is integral for systemic eco-social change, and of course that everyone and everything is interdependent. The future has to be interdependent with regenerative potentials.

M Mattingly LifeOfObjects web

Mattingly Cube map side

 

barge rendering 1 copy

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