Famous for his witty take on Chinese street life, photographer Liu Tao never ceases to amaze us. Parisian Gallery ON presents to us his work of staged self-portraiture, his revolt against contemporary Chinese society.
Liu Tao follows the steps of the East Village movement, that in the 1990s opposed with their performances the strict realism of the regime. Hungry Beijing , Spotting Zone and The Weak Roads represent Liu Tao’s reflections on freedom in three chapters. The three series investigate the fault lines of the globalized China we know, with a very introspective approach.
“Power is like pollution: it’s everywhere. Revolting cannot harm anyone, it is in our blood. Being naked is dissolving this pollution” Liu Tao tells us, in his enigmatic phrasing. His body re-appropriates men’s primordial status and environment. Far from the aggressive modern architecture, he revolts against the social chocking of human animalhood. “Modern architecture is like an aphrodisiac, it makes China excited” Liu tells us, “all that people want is a modern apartment, and this proves their intimate emptiness”. His alive naked body aims at shedding light on natural landscapes and shattered old buildings.
“I want to reduce the absolute advantage of modern architecture and its spark.”
Nakedness in China is a historical taboo. A naked body isn’t an erotic icon as in the west. Especially naked men: people ridicule them. “When I was a kid, in China, I learned that to humiliate someone, you needed to undress him and to expose him in public.” His nakedness is a stand against social norms, and a monument to human fragility. Recalling Humiliated and Insulted by Dostojevskij, Tao explains to us his point of view: “we get dressed to hide that we are as fragile as dust. When you undress, you reconnect with nature, and you realize that the whole world is nothing but dust”. Liu Tao is alone in his escape, there is no other human being in his photos. He uses a Chinese proverb (同床异梦) to express how people who sleep in the same bed are alone in their dreams.
“Everybody is lonely, the king and the beggar”
A selection of Liu Tao’s work is currently exhibited at ON Gallery in Paris.
Images by © Liu Tao, Courtesy ON/Gallery Beijing