Disappearance as a strategy: to flee confinement by way of a slippage between sign and symbol. As enacted in space, through time. Rave culture enacts a level of disappearance, by slipping away from the usual concept of a counterculture’s visual opposition. The visual is switched for the sonic. The punk on the streetcorner for the raver in the warehouse. Rave culture switches day for night. It doesn’t disappear from the day as it was never there.
In the 21C, disappearance would mean to conduct something of a digital erasure of the archives. To disappear would mean to delete all traces of oneself. But such an absence only gestures toward its horizon: a hole where once there was the whole. Strategically, for disappearance to be effective — which is to say, unnoticeable — something of a blending operation must take place. A slippage between sign and symbol.
Chinese artist Liu Bolin paints himself into the background. By statically inserting his body, he becomes integrated into his surroundings. He blends-in (and of course, plays all the stereotypes of Chinese conformity by doing so). Bolin’s strategy is not so much disappearance as it is the ineffective demonstration of camouflage coupled with the effective demonstration of symbolic disappearance. Camouflage has never been so ineffective as in the case of Bolin, where its illusion requires the precise placement of one’s body (without movement, viewed from one perspective only). Yet the failure of camouflage (even when its representation catches us by surprise as we search for his increasingly elusive body) foregrounds a greater strategy: the slippage between sign and symbol. The body as outline of the person is now clearly outlined as little more than it is, a surface of itself, a patina without depth, capable of reflecting its background, capable again of faking its own transparency. The body is not to be trusted; nor is the perspective of the viewer.
Disappearance as strategy, by way of slipping between sign and symbol, requires the unsettling of perspective while retaining its expected characteristics. If a generalized perspective, such as the map, cannot be trusted to represent the territory, than those items already on the map, many among the millions, might be discounted, along with so many others, as extraneous information. Data unlikely from which to proceed. “Hiding in plain sight” – Underground Resistance.
Choosing to truly hide within the perspective of the firing-range, to attempt to disappear by way of obfuscation, always results in disaster. Never choose obvious cover. Never hide (per se).
This post has been government funded (in part):
Edit — added:
One thing I did not mention (as it perhaps warrants another post) is that Bolin politically orients his work. According to Infoniac.com, his Beijing studio was shut down by the Government in 2005 which prompted his “Hiding in the City” series of photographs, all part of a shift from “dependence to revolting against the system” (Bolin’s words). Check it:
“I am standing, but there is a silent protest, the protest against the environment for the survival, the protest against the state. I wanted to photograph the reality of scenes of China’s development today.” – Liu Bolinhttp://tinyurl.com/358cep5 .