About the Photographer
Chinese, b. 1974 Jiangsu Province
Li Mu works in performance, installation, video, and photography to transform simple concepts into provocative designs and projects.
In his series My Dreams in Vilnius (2009), Li Mu traveled to the Lithuanian capital Vilnius, inspired by his own dreams and the city’s architectural legacy of Soviet rule. Li he wrote Chinese inscriptions in the places that held some meaning for him during his travels and painted on foundations of churches, town squares, castles, and alleyways. The resulting photographs of the graffiti chronicles Vilnius through the artist’s perspective as a visitor and an outsider, experiencing the city acutely aware that he was one of the very few Chinese wandering its streets. He leaves his small inscriptions on the walls of Soviet-era architecture with the knowledge, and intention, that, like his dreams in the city, they will be eventually washed away and remain only as memories.
With his Blued Books series (2008-2009), Li Mu explores the lives of teenagers serving sentences at the Shanghai Juvenile Reformatory. As a way of connecting with these youth, Li arranged to have a library of his personal art book collection--as well as books purchased or borrowed for the project-- installed in a communal space at the reformatory so the inmates can study the texts and meet with the artist for weekly discussions. Li found that the young people were eager to communicate with, learn, and earn trust from the outside world and the loaned books served as their bridge. Li created a series of portraits during the yearlong collaboration, of which ten are featured in the FarEastFarWest collection. In accordance with Chinese law, Li placed black bars over the eyes of the youth, which conceals their identities and creates a distance from the individual. According to the artist, the color blue represents the sky and ocean, as well as the aspirations of freedom, purity, and peace. The blue of the inmates’ uniforms underscores conflicting ideas of confinement and escape that the teens wrestle with during their time at the reformatory.
In another series, Inverted Photographs (2007), Li photographs his subjects playfully upside down but positions the photograph upside down so that the figures appear standing, yet at the start of a great action or leap. Li is interested in the tension between the gravity pulling on his subjects and their attempt to control their expressions to appear normal. His photographs contain elements of unease, worry, panic, patience, and persistence, while alluding to the complexity of human emotion and experience.
Li Mu graduated from the Suzhou Academy of Art and Design (1995) and from Tsinghua University’s Academy of Art in Beijing (2001). He has been included in exhibitions internationally as well as solo exhibitions at: TAIKANG Space, Beijing (2010), and Zendai Museum of Modern Art, Shanghai (2006). He works in Shanghai and Hangzhou.