Beijing-based artist Silin Liu will be exhibiting at PHOTO 2021. Here she discusses how she constructs ‘The Truth’ through fiction and illusion, being inspired by Andy Warhol and traditional Chinese culture, and the project that has been keeping her busy during isolation.

What started your relationship with photography?

It all began in 2008 when I started college and I chose photography as my major. In the beginning, I didn’t have much concept of photography as an art form. On one hand, I just didn’t want to continue drawing anymore; and on the other hand, I also thought photography was closer to life than other artistic mediums.

Silin Liu's first exhibition: 'Real & Unreal -The First Edition of Changjiang International Photograph & Video Biennale', China, 2015

What is your motivation for making art, and how has your practice changed over time?

I use art to express how I view the world, or you can say that I create to interpret my own perceptions of the world. Over time, I have found different sources of inspiration and they always come in changing forms. In contrast, my attitude, or my original intent to create has not changed over the years.

How do ideas relating to 'The Truth’ factor into your practice?

I construct ‘The Truth’ through forms of ‘fiction’ and ‘illusion’ — this is my artistic language. Exploring the truth and having the capability of expressing it is the original intent of my practice.

Silin Liu, APPME

In this post-internet age, how do you see the viewer in relation to your artwork?

Since I was born in the 90’s, the internet makes up a very important part of my life. When I create, I consider the way the work is viewed and even the way it is spread. I think most people discover my work online rather than in an exhibition. The internet is an infinite stage, so boundless in size that it is invisible. We should take notice of how much energy a work can generate by using the power of the internet.

'Diana Spencer & Celine Liu', 2014, on the poster of JIMEI•ARLES International Photo Festival, 2017

How do you go about developing new projects?

Usually, I would really want to do something for a period of time. I’ll then do some research and think about why I want to do it, because the idea must be related to my personal experience or life. After these initial stages of processing, I start executing the ideas. I used to love working on my own at home, but recently I started to communicate with galleries and other friends during the creative process to see what other possibilities are out there or if there’s any other specific and feasible ways.

First attempt of the series, 'I'm Everywhere', 2011

How does your lived experience influence your work?

When I was completing my master’s degree, my college specialised in areas regarding the Internet and new media. Everyone around me was working in the Internet industry. This was 2013, which was also when We Media began to gain momentum globally. At the time, I also wasted a lot of time everyday trying to figure out how to become an “internet celebrity”. I ended up using my work to become an “internet celebrity”, or let my work become the “internet celebrity” on their own. Throughout this process, I was constantly pondering and adjusting to the changes in life that I was experiencing. I am genuinely interested in my lived experiences.

Who or what inspires you?

Many people and things have inspired me, and I often found inspiration through movies. I would say that Andy Warhol has inspired me in the most profound ways. When I discovered him, I was in middle school and I didn’t truly understand the deeper meanings behind his work, but I felt his attitude and it has affected me till this day.

What books are you currently reading?

Müdigkeitsgesellschaft by Byung-Chul Han

What is your favourite website?


Solo exhibition, 'The Artist Is Online', Fotogalleri Vasli Souza, Sweden, 2018

What music are you listening to?

Some Buddhist music.

If the work you are presenting at PHOTO 2020 was a song, what would it be?

“Dark Course” by The Shanghai Restoration Project

How are you spending your time with the current social distancing restrictions?

I have been isolating at home for three months now. During this time, I thought about some of the problems regarding society, humanity and politics as revealed by the virus. Migrant Bird Space in Berlin has invited me to do an online exhibition, with the theme ‘FUN IN QUARANTINE’; so I combined the two things I did the most during isolation to share with the audience. This project is called ‘dinner time’, I used the making of a dish to construct a film series over 5 days. This film series can be seen as a practice of thought and self-reflection of the current situations and problems.

German feature article about 'FUN IN QUARANTINE'

How do you hope our creative community will overcome this unique challenge?

By conveying all the love and empathy from our hearts along with truthful and valuable reflections for everyone.

Do you have any unrealised projects you would like to work on?

New creations are brewing.

I’m very interested in traditional Chinese culture, hence why I have been working at the Palace Museum for the past two years in the Heritage Hospital. My generation of young people grew up in the context of globalisation, so we lack a lot of knowledge of our own country’s culture. Thus, I hope to deconstruct Chinese traditions through this new project.

What advice would you give to your 15 year old self?

No advice —I have no regrets. I’m thankful that 15 year old me was so genuine, brave and confident. She doesn’t need to listen to too many opinions.

Fun in Quarantine can be viewed on Migrant Bird Space’s Facebook page.

Founding Partners
  • Bowness Family Foundation
  • Naomi Milgrom Foundation
Major Government Partners
  • City of Melbourne Arts Grants Program
  • Creative Victoria
Major Partners
  • Maddocks

PHOTO Australia respectfully acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands upon which we work and live, and the rich and diverse Indigenous cultures across what is now called Australia. For over 60,000 years, Indigenous arts and culture have thrived on this sacred land, and we honour Elders and cultural leaders past and present. This was, and always will be, Aboriginal land.

01–24 March