March 31, 2012
March 31, 2012
Liu Bolin & JR in New York City
Photographs and Text by Zachary Bako
Liu Bolin is a contemporary Chinese artist based in Beijing. He is best known for his Hiding in the City series, which began in 2005 as a performance protesting the government when they forcibly demolished the studios of artists in Suo Jia Cun, where he was working.
I was in Beijing for artist residency in 2010, creating my own work that was investigating the modernity of China. During this time, I also began to document the contemporary Chinese art scene. Liu Bolin had been on my radar since 2006 / 2007. It was not until June 21, 2011, that I first met and worked with the artist when he was in New York. He was creating imagery for Hiding in New York. I documented each day he performed, and I photographed the final artwork for each of his performances.
Soon after our meeting, I found myself in the enviable position of traveling back and forth to Beijing as our working relationship deepened. At the end of December 2011, I relocated to Beijing after seven years in New York to focus on the documentation of Liu Bolin’s creative process. I am now in pre-production of creating a documentary film chronicling the Hiding in the City series, with much emphasis on the earlier works.
Liu Bolin’s passion for his artwork was clear from the start. The more I worked with Liu, the more interested I got in capturing his emotion, and that of those around him, as he works. When we collaborate, I find myself peeling the camera away from my face, almost like I need to take a minute now and then just to bear witness to the intensity of the atmosphere around me. In particular, when we were in his hometown of Binzhou in Shandong Province, China, last September creating two works.
Liu Bolin and JR have known each other for 4 or 5 years ago. They first met in Arles, France. During Liu Bolin’s first performance for Hiding in New York in 2011 (at that time, in front of the Kenny Scharf mural on Houston and Bowery) JR stopped by to give his regards. Almost a year later the two would collaborate on a piece.
First, JR photographed Liu Bolin’s face (the frame denotes his left eye partially visible through the fingers of his left hand) (Liu Bolin is predominately left-handed when creating sculptures and painting) Then JR and his assistants pasted the mural onto his studio door. Once the pasting was completed, we waited for the correct light and Liu Bolin and his assistants then painted JR into his own image. Perched on scaffolding across the street, (there was a SUV parked from the correct POV, so we elevated camera to combat this) Liu Bolin directed his assistants with a laser pointer to perfect every last detail. The final product, a photograph.
Frankly, Liu Bolin and JR respect each other’s work; even so much that JR has collected one of Liu Bolin’s pieces. I think that it is fantastic that a cultural bridge is connected with these two artists. They are no doubt, two very important artists of our time; both having very distinct messages within their work. I consider their collaboration a homage to one another.
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March 30, 2012
March 30, 2012
As it always is, a seemingly random confluence of events turns into the great wave and I love Hokusai, so I am gonna ride it til it fades. How did it all begin? Oh yes, I have to write a book proposal and marketing plan. Sure, common thought is to follow the crowd and submit a query letter and manuscript. But me, whenever I see a crowd, I go in the opposite direction.
It’s not just to be contrary, or because it feels claustrophobic. I suppose the side effect of feeling isolated is a strong adherence to individualism. How could I do whatever everyone else does and still be myself? I just, ohh, I loathe following anyone or anything because I have trust issues. And authority issues. And I also come from the school of Do It Yo Own Damn Self.
That and… I was a publisher. A marketing director. I know a couple of things about this industry. But not all that much. Not any more. It’s been three years and everything has changed. And that makes me happy. Nothing is as soul destroying as sameness. Nothing makes me more dull than routine. Nothing burns out my brain like repetition. And nothing makes me happier than finding a new way.
But I knew I didn’t know. I knew I was afloat. Disconnected. Not even sure where to begin. And that when the beautiful Ms. Dresser send me an email connecting me to Chris Snook, a forward thinking publishing in the realm of thought leaders, marketing, and business. We spoke on Tuesday, and it was so exciting! I mean, most people are not turned on by talking marketing, but me, it’s become like the air I breathe.
Yes I needed to get away. The air had grown cloudy, stale, musty. But upon my return to the conversation, it was fresh, gusty breezes clearing my mind of all dust. It was the future of books transforming right before our eyes, and where did I fit into the puzzle.
Me being me being me, there is nothing I love more than figuring it out for myself. So I did the one thing I have never done before: I began the process of market research. Books! Brands! What does it all mean? I don’t even know. I haven’t given it much thought even though I made it my career for fifteen years. I mean, sure I thought about it, in as much as work needed to get done. And I have always been a brilliant tactician. Because I fall on my ass so often if you blink, you might miss it. It might appear that I never fell. But down I went, and up I rise, over and over again.
But a brilliant tactician is not a strategist. Because a strategist works with a long term goal in mind. And up until this point in my life, I didn’t have a goal. But I just articulated it, and so it is: to write for a living. Ahh, what an aspiration. Writing in all forms, but most notably books, because all writers dream of being that which is held in the hand and viewed with the eye and perceived with the mind and felt in the heart and to think of people snuggling up with me at night, ohh, what a lovely vibe.
Writing in and of itself proved a challenge, but writing is not a job, it is a passion. Being an author, now that’s a job, because the paper chase in on and poppinn. It has to do with strategy, with long term planning. Because a book is a thing to behold for the ages, if your commitment demands you see that through. And me, there is so little to which I have ever been committed, I think books have been the only thing that have held me to them. And so here I am transitioning from writer to author, wondering, How does this even work?
So I went from a place of ignorance, of acknowledging all that I do not know, and penning an open letter to my peers inviting them to share their thoughts with me. And then I operated from a place of knowledge, and I have begun—but not yet completed—my search for those whose experience fascinates me. But I have returned to the thing that I have been missing for so very long, my communications with so many brilliant minds.
In the past two or three days, I have reconnected with so many people I have long missed, and I have been reminded that a true connection is one in which time ceases to exist. We simply pick up where we left off, with no thought of anything other than the possibility of collaboration. And in this people have opened their hearts and begun sharing their ideas and feelings and inspiring.
But a wave is not a wave unless it is sustainable. And into the mix comes an inquiry: would I be interested in guest lecturing at an estimable Manhattan institution? And yes, I would, and yes, lecturing on branding would be of interest to me. Because this is the thing that I have done, unconsciously, intuitively. I have built a brand because I love brands because I believe in brands because brands believe in me. And that is projection—but it is also the essence of community.
I’ve never felt I belong anywhere, but there are times in which I do. Like the Chanel counter at Bergdorf’s. How or why that is, yes, I can say it is Carmen Dimitriu. But it is not just her, though she makes it special. It is the brands themselves. Bergdorfs, because, there is nowhere else. Chanel, because there is nothing else. For me. Because they are manifestations of my soul.
Of course that may read strange to people who wish to believe the soul is held to their standards, but that is none of my concern. I understand branding because I have always felt myself to be a brand. Only now I am starting to wonder why. And what does it mean. And how does it work. And what can it do. And what are the possibilities present.
“I don’t know is a valid answer” my ex always said. And I sent him the questionnaire on books and branding, because it’s nice to know that though we are not friends, we are still connected. As professionals, and as supporters of each other’s dreams. And to know he is one of many people with whom I share this connection, and can explore the future I want to create… today.
March 30, 2012
The thing that’s important to know is that you never know.
You’re always sort of feeling your way.
I work from awkwardness. By that I mean I don’t like to arrange things.
If I stand in front of something, instead of arranging it, I arrange myself.
Quotes by Diane Arbus
Photographs by Sian Kennedy
March 30, 2012
The forms may change,
yet the essence remains the same.
March 29, 2012
March 28, 2012
What we call the beginning is often the end.
And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.
The progress of an artist is a continual self-sacrifice,
a continual extinction of personality.
The communication of the dead
is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living.
Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.
Quotes by T.S. Eliot
Photographs from Dead Boy’s Poem
March 28, 2012
Steven Hirsch has done it again. The man who brought you Courthouse Confessions, CrustyPunks, and most chillingly, the homes of sexual predators, has returned with Little Sticky Legs, portraits and stories of alien abductees.
Me, I don’t believe. But no longer do I feel that anything is impossible because too many strange things keep happening to me. And were I to continue to view any of these people with judgment and condescention, I would be missing the point of all of this. These are storytellers. I am listening.
Our lives are defined by our experiences. Our experiences shape our beliefs. Our beliefs shape our experiences. The circle never begins and never ends. And we are always writing our stories, whether we set them down or not. That someone as open minded as Steven Hirsch is out here recording these stories provides us with something previously not in existence, a way to consider these people on their terms and no one elses.
If we could let go, release ourselves from some inferior need to be “right”, if we could accept people on their terms and learn something about them, ourselves, the world in the process? Ahh, that would be the point of life.
In the summer of 1961 when I was twelve years old, I was at my girlfriends house and we were playing and her father yelled for us to come outside, he wanted us to see something. When we walked outside we immediately saw a giant silver craft. It was silently hovering above a tree. It had red, green and white lights that I thought at the time were rotating but I realize they were pulsating. Someone called the police. Two Novi police came. Her father actually brought a telescope out and he asked me to look through the telescope, I said, “Why? It’s right there.” I didn’t even understand why I would even look through a telescope. It was so close. And then there was a car coming down the road. There was a tree here and a craft here and a car coming down the road and as it got right underneath the craft, a beam of light came out of the bottom and it went right to the roof of the car and as soon as it touched the car the car was totally immobilized. I just remember screaming and being excited and jumping up and down. I remember tugging on one of the police officers arms and saying, “Do something. Do something.” After that I remember being home and Mom and Dad telling me to not talk about it, forget about it, hoping that I would forget about it and it would go away. So for fifty years I never shared it with anyone, not with family or friends or anyone….
March 28, 2012
I don’t believe in dogmas and theologies. I just believe in being a good person.
When I work, and in my art, I hold hands with God.
I see things like they’ve never been seen before.
Art is an accurate statement of the time in which it is made.
I need somebody who I can really communicate with.
When I have sex with someone I forget who I am.
For a minute I even forget I’m human.
It’s the same thing when I’m behind a camera. I forget I exist.
Quotes by Robert Mapplethorpe
Photographs by Lilla Szasz
March 28, 2012
The Biggest Cat on Earth: The Siberian Tiger
by Clara Lehman
The Panthera tigris altaica, Siberian Tiger, or Amur Tiger as it is also known, is matched in size by no other wild cat. The Tungusic people of North China and Russia regarded the animal as a deity, and gave it names such as ‘Grandfather’ or ‘Old Man.’ There is no denying the majestic nature of this special animal, and even when looking at contemporary Chinese culture the Siberian tiger is seen again and again. Adult Siberian tigers can often reach lengths of 3.3 metres long, and a weight of 300 kilograms, but there have been recordings of animals larger than this. One Siberian tiger, called ‘Jaipur’, who was kept in captivity, reached a staggering weight of 465 kilograms.
Their Natural Habitat
Right now the Siberian tiger is mostly confined to the cold birch forests of eastern Russia, but they can be found in China, and also Korea. In centuries past these magnificent creatures were much more prevalent across a large area cutting through Russia, China and Korea, but in modern times their numbers have dwindled. Siberian tigers prospered in the isolated habitats away from human settlements, but as the human race grew and spread, the Siberian tiger began to lose its territory.
In a rare instance of the natural world, these animals sometimes engage in a losing battle with humans, often after being provoked or from an attempt to capture them. While they are not considered to pose a specific threat to humans, they have been known to defend their territory, and are more than capable of killing a man. These wild cats are so strong and powerful that they can successfully hunt brown bears, and make it difficult for wolves to exist in the same environment because they dominate the food source.
They hunt alone, without a pack to help them catch prey, and their technique is to sneak up on their next meal. They hunt a variety of different animals, but their usual diet consists of deer, wild boar, fish, and birds. Their habit of occupying areas with the lowest human density is a great advantage, because it offers them the most complete natural ecosystem where they can reign supreme.
The Strive to Protect
The Siberian tiger is currently in the endangered bracket in terms of conservation. There are no definite figures as to exactly how many still exist in the wild, but it is estimates from 2005 put the figure at between 300 and 400. There is a large effort to protect these now rare animals, but still they succumb to the poachers and deforestation, especially in China. The extent of poaching is surprising considering how dangerous these animals can be, and the damage they can inflict. Opportunist poachers with cheap van insurance really are risking life and limb when attempting to capture and transport a Siberian tiger.
One instance in 2002 saw a man from Jilin province in China survive an attack by a Siberian tiger. He claimed the tiger attacked him without any provocation on his part, but his story raised suspicions, mainly because Siberian tigers very rarely attack humans. It was later revealed that the man had actually set traps to catch the animal, and he was only attacked once the tiger in questioned had a snare around its neck, causing it untold pain. The damage and infection caused by the snare eventually killed the tiger, even after desperate surgery to try and save it.
Rarely thought of as a man-eater, the Siberian tiger now benefits from a large conservation effort that strives to protect the animal and ensure that their numbers stop declining. The majority of Siberian tigers, maybe as many as 95% of the wild population, live in the Russian Far East. The World Conservation Society Russia has a Siberian Tiger Project that focuses on collecting scientific information connected to Siberian tiger ecology and using it to help conserve them. They have been tracking the animals through the use of radio collars since 1992, and are building a complete understanding of how Siberian tigers live, their eating habits, preproduction rates, social structure, and use of territory. From their research they have concluded that around 80% of Siberian tigers die because of human influence. It seems that only increased efforts to keep deforestation and human expansion away from the environments that Siberian tigers inhabit, along with stopping poachers, will stop their numbers decreasing.