Artist Liu Bolin live streams Beijing smog to raise awareness

Artist Liu Bolin live streams Beijing smog to raise awareness
Artist Liu Bolin wearing a vest with 24 mobile phones speaks during a Reuters interview after a live broadcast of air pollution in the city on the fourth day after a red alert was issued for heavy air pollution in Beijing.
PHOTO: Reuters

BEIJING - Chinese artist Liu Bolin, known as "the invisible man" for using painted-on camouflage to blend into the backdrops of his photographs, says his latest project aims to put the spotlight on China's air pollution problem.

As north China battled with poor air quality for a third straight day on Monday, Liu said the recent pollution warnings inspired him to show live video of the smog in the capital, Beijing.

To do that, Liu walks around wearing an orange vest with 24 smartphones attached on the front and back, live-streaming scenes of smog which he calls "a disaster".

"As an artist, to discuss it with images is what I think we should do," Liu told Reuters Television.

The artist, who is also a sculptor, has won international recognition with exhibitions in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, the United States and Latin America.

Liu's previous "Hiding in the City" series featured him hidden in plain sight against monuments, murals, buildings and scenes of daily life in Beijing, Venice, New York and elsewhere.

The invisibility theme was done as a protest against the demolition of Liu's studio when authorities razed an artists'village in Beijing. But then he fell in love with this way of presenting his ideas.

His latest work is titled "Today Even Numbers Banned", a reference to Beijing's odd-even licence plate system for restricting the number of vehicles on roads when pollution levels are high.

China's environmental watchdog issued a five-day warning on Friday about choking smog spreading across the north and ordered factories to close, recommended residents stay indoors and curbed traffic and construction work.

Some Beijing residents were puzzled by the sight of Liu and his orange smartphone vest, but they approved of his efforts to raise awareness of the smog problem. "I think this is pretty good. I don't quite understand his art form, but his work can make more people know about smog in Beijing, right?," said 27-year-old Xu Chenglong.

Smog blankets northeast China

  • Open gallery

    More than 40 cities in China's northeast have issued pollution warnings in the past 48 hours after being blanketed by heavy smog.

  • Open gallery

    Air quality index (AQI) readings at some monitoring stations in Tianjin, a port and industrial city southeast of Beijing, peaked above 400.

  • Open gallery

    China's environmental watchdog issued a five-day warning on Friday about choking smog spreading across the northeast.

  • Open gallery

    The authority also ordered factories to shut, recommended residents stay indoors and curbed traffic and construction work.

  • Open gallery

    Pollution alerts have become increasingly common in China's northern industrial heartland, especially during winter when energy demand - much of it met by coal - skyrockets.

  • Open gallery

    In addition, heavy winds force pollution from nearby provinces to the Beijing-Tianjin area where it remains suspended over the cities.

  • Open gallery

    Beijing's city government ordered 1,200 factories near the Chinese capital, including a major oil refinery run by state oil giant Sinopec, to shut or cut output on Saturday.

  • Open gallery

    On Saturday, 22 cities issued red alerts including top steelmaking city Tangshan in Hebei province around Beijing, and Jinan in coal-rich Shandong province.

  • Open gallery

    Red alerts are issued when the AQI is forecast to exceed 200 for more than four days in succession, 300 for more than two days or 500 for at least 24 hours.

  • Open gallery

    Tianjin was placed on orange alert - the second highest level - on Sunday.

  • Open gallery

    In Beijing, the city's Municipal Environmental Monitoring Centre showed air quality readings of above 300 in some parts on Sunday (Dec 18) afternoon.

  • Open gallery

    But the index was below 200 in most parts of the Chinese capital.

  • Open gallery

    "When I went out yesterday I didn't wear a mask and my throat really hurt and I felt dizzy. It was hard to breathe through my nose," Chen Xiaochong, a hotel manager in the capital, told Reuters

  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery

    A man swims in a lake in smog during a heavily polluted day in Beijing.

  • Open gallery

    The forbidden city is seen in smog during a heavily polluted day.

More about

air pollution
Your daily good stuff - AsiaOne stories delivered straight to your inbox
By signing up, you agree to our Privacy policy and Terms and Conditions.