Li Binyuan, better known as “streaking brother,” is a master of the absurd. Defying conventional rules and turning his focus towards the process of art production and experiences in life, Li has successfully captured the attention of an international audience.
However, instead of stunning through pure spectacle, he engrosses with deliberate method. Though controversial, Li’s behavior artworks in which he runs nude through Beijing’s streets carrying a blow up sex doll, or rides a motorcycle naked while carrying a giant wooden cross, are important for their ability to inspire the courage necessary for catharsis and incite conversations beyond initial shock factor.
By making layers of forbidden behavior momentarily public and inherently ephemeral, Li alludes to the secret activities taking place behind the closed doors of those houses he runs or rides past. Occurring at night when Li’s body is only partially illuminated by streetlights, the actions when seen on film are electrifying and encourage emotional release. Using his body as art material, the 2011 graduate of the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, (where Li served as president of the student-run literary society, Blank Poetry Society) uses humor and extremes to explore contradictions. Though Li enjoys painting charming landscapes, in his video work “Die Loving,” the artist smashes 161 hammers in 30 minutes. The brash, testosterone-charged artwork is equally as expressive as the placid, traditional fine arts. Such tensions are at the heart of Li’s art practice and make his pieces – whether seen as photographic artifact in a gallery or part of a live performance – wholly present.
The thematic elements of paradox and time are also evident in object-based works by Li, such as “Magic Lantern,” in which the bulb of an antique lamp is replaced by a light source similar to a lava lamp. The effect is aesthetically intriguing but most interesting for the juxtaposition between old and new, which effectively provokes questions about the future. Similar ideas are evident in the sentimental work “Ten Thousand Years Too Long,” in which a key is forever jammed into a lock, like lovers eternally bound. A young but thoughtful and compelling artist, Li’s artworks successfully challenge the viewer to not only be fully present and aware of his space in the current place and time, but also to learn from Li’s spontaneous behavior and introduce an element of ridiculousness into one’s own daily life. At the opening of Die 8 der Wege, Li will be performing an original piece titled, “Deathless Love”.
Text: Roxanne Goldberg