Clos19 talks to Liu Bolin, Chinese performance artist and photographer known for his chameleon-like immersion into environments, earning him the nickname “The Invisible Man”. Liu Bolin has recently teamed up with Ruinart in launching a series of photographic works titled “The Invisible Hand”. The series features eight images capturing the unrecognized human labour in achieving the elegance, history and routine of the champagne production experience at Ruinart. We discuss the collaboration and what the art of hosting means to him.
HOW DO YOU DEFINE GOOD TASTE?
Good taste is the choice you make after you’ve tried a thousand other possibilities, that’s why I keep trying new things. Good taste is synchronized with good visual and psychological feelings. I think that good taste will make us feel relaxed in spirit, or feel a kind of enjoyment. Good taste must be a form of joy for our spirits.
WHAT DOES THE (YOUR) FUTURE TASTE LIKE?
With today’s ever-changing environment, people are constantly moving and adapting. I don't dare to say what my future flavour will be but I believe my work will arouse people's spiritual resonance and a kind of spiritual enjoyment at the same time. A mix between bitterness and sweetness.
IF YOUR ART WAS A DRINK, WHICH ONE WOULD IT BE?
When you look at an artwork, it creates a certain connection with our souls and elevates us. So if I were choose a drink to represent my art, it would be a sparkling wine such as champagne.
DID YOU INTEND TO CONVEY A MESSAGE THROUGH YOUR COLLABORATION WITH RUINART?
I was impressed by the team's expertise and how the surrounding natural resources are put to use in the production of champagne. The message behind my work is mainly the complex but incredible interaction between men and the environment. I really wanted to reveal every stage of champagne making: brewing, riddling, disgorgement, bottling, packing but also delivery. Ruinart's culture sums up about 300 years of heritage.
HOW DID YOU PICK THE LOCATIONS AND CONCEPTS OF THE EIGHT PHOTOGRAPHS?
In order to express my relationship with Ruinart I tried my best to pick the main locations where the elaboration of their champagne takes place. So the eight artworks represent the entire process from the beginning to the end of production but also highlight the workers of Ruinart. I want to present the culture of Ruinart to people.
WHAT IS THE MOST STRIKING & MEMORABLE DISCOVERY YOU MADE AT RUINART?
For me it really was an adventure. I first discovered that Ruinart's history was recorded with chalk on the cellar walls during World War I and II, which was amazing. It wasn’t only the culture but really the people involved and the expertise of the workers which made me feel very excited. The subject is not only art but also the notion of time passing by.
A moment that made a great impression on me was when we shot three works in the underground cave. The moisture level, intended to protect the champagne, was very high. Yellow lights were used, but there was no colour on the camera sensor. There was also very little oxygen deep underground. I had never before worked in a similar situation and it was hard but at the same time very interesting to overcome these difficulties.
WHAT DOES THE ART OF HOSTING MEAN TO YOU?
I really enjoy hosting lunches and dinners with my friends or family. It is a pleasure to welcome people, and to me hosting is creating special bonds and moments with the people you love. In my own work, I also wanted to host, and moreover to showcase, the workers and wine cellar master of Ruinart.
WHAT IS YOUR GUILTY PLEASURE WHEN IT COMES TO FOOD AND DRINK?
My guilty pleasure is to communicate with others in an unconventional manner over a good meal.
WHEN ENTERTAINING AT HOME, WHAT IS YOUR SECRET WEAPON?
When I host some of my friends or family at home, my secret weapon is to create some games or fun activities in which we can use our body language and interact. For me, it is a real pleasure to interact with people. I love igniting an enjoyable atmosphere and mood for everyone around. I am the most happy when I am around my family, my wife and children.