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Falling into the sky: the art of Li Wei

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Someone just pointed me to Li Wei, a Chinese artist who creates remarkable photos of himself.

They mostly tend to fall into three categories:

  • Photos of himself head-down, with his head completely submerged in something (water, dirt, a floor, etc).
  • Sort of the inverse of that: photos of just his head sticking up out of a surface.
  • The really impressive ones to me: photos of himself apparently defying gravity in various ways.

Some of my favorites:

(A review on Li Wei's site notes that some of his photos bear some resemblance to Yves Klein's Le Saut Dans le Vide ("Leap into the Void"); true. But I like Li Wei's renditions better.)

Of course, the obvious question is: were these photos faked?

And the answer appears to be: sort of.

He uses wires, mirrors, and other structural assistance, and then removes the wires from the photos using Photoshop. So the photos are really of Li Wei, really in those places; but the illusion of the absence of gravity is, of course, an illusion.

Note that, as I understand it, he is primarily a performance artist rather than a photographic artist; he does performances, some of which apparently involve holding himself very still for a long time in a particular pose (with his head buried in something, for example), and the photos are sort of (retouched) records of those performances. I think.

If you want to know more about how all this works, you can watch the videos on the site. For example, the video of the being-kicked-off-the-roof photo shows the setup and testing process, with the rope holding him in place clearly visible. Oddly, the guy who's kicking him doesn't appear to have anything holding him in place; that ends up looking a lot more dangerous than Li Wei's part.

Anyway. Lots of cool stuff, well worth a look.

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