Put on the soundtrack to Annihilation, whose eerie tracks can jolt you out of your habitual frame of mind. Immersed in that otherworldly soundscape, you can understand the images Liu Di presents.
A graduate of Beijing’s prestigious Central Academy of Art, Chinese visual artist Liu Di creates works that reveal a meditation on the tediousness of life, from the second you lay eyes on them they capture your attention. From a massive animal sitting amidst a sprawl of slum housing to a giant man with a hyperrealistic face that nevertheless seems to be more plastic than flesh, jarring contrasts are often used to great effect in establishing the sense of surrealism in his work.
As a child, Liu dreamed of becoming a doctor one day, but when he would page through medical books, it was the illustrations that piqued his interest. He eventually realized that his true interests lay in art. In 2010, he won the coveted Lacoste Elysée Prize for photography, and today, he’s become an established name in the Chinese art scene.
Despite his success, Liu continually defies the label of “photographer” with works that are a departure from traditional documentary-style photography. More often than not, an elaborate post-production process is required to realize his vision.
小时候的柳迪曾经想成为一个医生，当他尝试打开阅读医科书籍，吸引到他目光的却是那些书里的插图，此后他渐渐明白了艺术是他的真正兴趣所在。至今他已是一位小有建树的艺术家，曾经在2010年荣获 Lacoste 爱丽舍摄影奖一等奖。虽然平常被称为一位摄影师，但比起传统意义上的纪录拍摄，柳迪更倾向于用后期制作的手法，来实现他脑海里的视觉想象。
In Animal Regulation, Liu reevaluates the relationship between civilization and nature by placing gargantuan animals in unexpected urban settings. “To tell the truth, I’m not looking to change much with my work,” he shrugs. “I believe art’s social meaning is limited because the message is indirect. But this is not to say that the meaning of art itself is limited. On the contrary, art’s meaning goes beyond its social meaning. Art can soothe and give a voice to human emotion. My work is just a proclamation – it’s trying to convey something akin to ‘How can we lead lives like these?’” Unlike the combative radicalism seen everywhere in contemporary art, Liu’s work feels much more reserved and rational.
在《动物法则》系列中，柳迪将庞大的动物放置在一些意想不到的城市场景里，灵感出发自他对于人类社会进步与自然之间关系的思考，而这样的思考更多是倾向于自我表达，不是要刻意去打破些什么，“我其实不想通过作品改变什么，我认为艺术的社会意义是很有限的，因为它并不直接。但这不是说艺术本身的意义有限，相反的，艺术的意义是超越社会意义的，对人来说，艺术是具有抒发和治愈人心效果的。我想透过作品表达的像是一种对于生命的感叹，类似于 “我们怎么是这样的一种存在？” 之类的疑问。” 这种由理性思考散发出的含蓄气质，使得他的作品并不具备当下当代艺术普遍存在那种激进的攻击性。
Liu’s latest project is planned as a three-part video series, with each video being a visual interpretation of a particular idea. Currently, two videos are complete: The Weight of Oneself and A Stubbornly Persistent Illusion. He calls this series “three sentences with the same grammatical structure.”
The Weight of Oneself is inspired by a philosophical insight from Witold Gombrowicz: the weight of each of our selves, Gombrowicz mused, depends on the size of the population on the planet. If humanity’s weight is constant, then each individual’s weight is equal to one divided by the number of people living at that time. A Stubbornly Persistent Illusion, on the other hand, is his personal interpretation of Albert Einstein’s quote: “The distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”
《自我的重量》的灵感来源于贡布罗维奇（Witold Gombrowicz）的一个哲学思考：“我们每个人自我的重量取决于地球上人口的数量——人类的自我重量的总和是一个不变的恒量，而每个人自我的重量约等于那个时代人口数量分之一。” 而《顽固而持久的幻觉》的题目则来源于爱因斯坦（Albert Einstein）写下的一句话：“过去、现在和未来之间的分别不过是顽固而持久的幻觉。”
Ultimately, Liu Di hopes for his work to serve as an oasis from the monotony of our daily lives. One noteworthy detail in The Weight of Oneself is the number of frames dedicated to the dense jungle setting. As the camera pans upward, a gigantic figure comes into view, towering above the canopy; the camera pans back down, and then repeats its climb, again showing the giant. Yet after a few cycles—not visible in the shortened preview above—as the viewer expects to see the giant, he is nowhere to be found, gone between camera movements. Liu Di seems to be playing with our expectations and habits in everyday life.