Li Wei is a contemporary artist from Beijing, China. His work often depicts him in apparently gravity-defying situations. Wei started off his performance series, Mirroring, and later on took off attention with his Falls series which shows the artist with his head and chest embedded into the ground. His work is a mixture of performance art and photography that creates illusions of a sometimes dangerous reality. Li Wei states that these images are not computer montages, but that he uses mirrors, metal wires, scaffolding and acrobatics. Read below for the full interview…
Years ago, your ‘fall’ series shook the creative community. I was curious to ask if there was any spiritual meaning behind that work. The book of Exodus has deep emphasis on the casting down of objects in protest to a certain subject. What are your thoughts?
Li: My thoughts is to use my body to express my feeling of our current living situtation. It’s dangerous and unstable.
We did an interview with Zhang Huan last year, and he told us once that performance art sill plays a minor role in the long river of art. In your own words, Do you feel like there is a lack of attention surrounding performance art in the mainstream?
Li: Yes, I think so too. But now I’m using photography merged with performance art element.
Alot of your work is a commentary on china’s continuously changing and unfamiliar society. Looking ahead 10 years later, how has the economy changed and how has your work reflected this change?
Li: Although the economy has fast growth, our life still is in a rush and in a dangerous situation. I also think this is what we get from globalization.
Is it true that it is hard to become an artist in Beijing? You had the fortune of having parents who allowed you the privilege to study at a private arts school. Why do you think most parents don’t want their kid to become artists?
Li: No, not really. I grew up in Hubei province. I’m not a Bejinger. It’s not a private art school, I just learned oil painting in a normal college because the parents consider the job chances after studying art.
Do you believe that being in a more dangerous situation translates into a better piece of art for you?
Li: Well, I think I just express what I feel from the current living situation. I also get inspiration from my family; my daughter.
When you were first starting out you were working lots of jobs painting billboard advertisements and murals. Did this struggle ultimately help you in your photography and performance art in the long run?
Li: Yes, but what really gave me big influence is performance art.
What are some of your favorite Asian films?
Li: Ang Lee’s films.
Damien Hirst once said, ‘in an artwork you’re always looking for artistic decisions’. When someone is viewing your work, what do you hope that they get out of it?
Li: Anything they get. No matter what that is; sometimes it is only imagination and humor.
Continuing with that theory, having showcased your work in Asia, Australia, Europe and North America — what culture club would you say is more receptive to your art?
Li: My art is more and more acceptable in African countries. I can say what I’m doing is universal.
Will you ever go back to being an oil painter full-time?
Lastly, what advice could you give to the struggling performance artist out there?
Li: Don’t be afraid and be creative.
Want to see more stunning performance art by Li Wei? Visit his official site below: