Li Liao is a young Chinese contemporary artist, whose noticeable public performances and videos which derive from those performances question the capitalist world around him and ever-growing consumption in today’s society. Li Liao was born in Hubei in 1982, where he graduated from Hubei Institute of Fine Arts in 2005.
Li Liao’s relations with performances and public space
In Li Liao’s view, he was forced to create so-called art, seeing as he does not have any special talents. He is interested in the ordinary absurdities of reality – his understanding is that every now and then, they will poke you in your life, most usually springing forth without thinking before being refined further. The boundaries between art and life were not obscured intentionally, but rather replaced by the original reality out of an unclarifiable state. Li Liao’s intention is not merely to nurture an artistic style based on intimate relations but rather to bring about an unexpectedly strong collision between ordinary emotions and public space.
Li Liao – body as an object
Emphasizing the subjectivity and desire to transform objects, Li Liao in his works Spring Breeze and Single Bed, directly objectifies himself. Locking himself outside an office building all day and falling asleep in public spaces, he offers his own body up to the surveillance and suppression of modern society. These are actions that can be observed and gradually yet completely deprived of their subjective vulnerability.
Li Liao’s pieces deeply involve the artist in the realization of activities that draw on his personal and work life, isolating various aspects of these that then become the work.
Consumption – paradoxical nature of our lust for the latest device
Li became well known for the performance Consumption done in 2012, in which he took a job making Apple iPads at the Foxconn factory in Shenzhen, quitting his job once he had earned enough to buy the product he was involved in assembling. The installation that showed this performance brought together his work uniform, contract and ID card, as well as the finished iPad bought with his wages.
Life as an artist – Art is Vacuum and Marathon performance
In Art is Vacuum from 2013, Li rather brilliantly embeds the Hugo Boss Award itself into the reality of his life as an artist. In this piece he gave the 50,000 RMB production budget for the Award exhibition to his girlfriend’s father to ameliorate the father’s unhappiness at having an artist for a future son-in-law.
Li Liao’s piece titled Marathon confronts us with existential malaise – a couch and a television permanently tuned in to the London marathon on loop. Accompanying the couch and television are two video screens displaying the very same couch and TV, in the very same room. What is accomplished is a Marxist critique of human labor – we feel estranged from ourselves, in the same way that a worker is ‘estranged’ from their work when deprived of the fruits of their labor.
Recognitions of Liao’s work
Li Liao has been nominated in HUGO BOSS Asia Art Award. Significant exhibitions in which Liao’s art has been featured are group exhibition ON︱OF at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, China and a show in Rockbund Art Museum, among several others.
Li Liao currently works and lives in Shenzhen.