This post is also available in: 繁體中文
We all hear lots of news stories about China, and — if Western media is to be believed — the country is an over-crowded nightmare of pollution, government oppression, a tanking economy and a total lack of freedom for LGBTQ citizens. While all of that is quite probably true, it’s more likely that things are more nuanced than all that. (Remember that fake story about Beijing residents watching the sunrise on TV because it was too polluted to see otherwise? Even Time reported on that one!) An illuminating new art exhibit sheds some light on the country’s queer arts scene and how it thrives despite reported national oppression.
Don’t get us wrong, homophobia is definitely a problem in twenty-first century China. So is censorship and freedom of the press. But that doesn’t mean that artists and activists aren’t out there doing amazing work, like the feminist group that held an armpit hair competition with condoms as a prize. There are also moments of personal activism, like the lesbian couple that staged a happy, illegal wedding.
Queer Chinese art is making a rare appearance in Europe right now, with an exhibit (simply titled Queer Arts In China) currently on view at the Galerie Verbeeck – Van Dyck in Antwerp. Featuring work by seven Chinese artists, some of whom use aliases, the show is a part of the larger Antwerp Queer Arts Festival. (Here’s a fun fact: Antwerp’s Chinatown is currently located in its old gayborhood.) The exhibit was curated by Stijn Deklerck, a Belgian expert in Chinese law who also produces documentaries about LGBT issues for both Chinese and western audiences.
The exhibition impacted one big-eyed Belgian blogger, who was surprised by how emotionally effective the exhibit is: “It was then and there I realised that things I find self-evident in my day-to-day life, other people struggle for each and every day all over the world. Exhibitions like these open up the dialogue to a broader audience.”
The exhibit is up for just nine days, through Sunday, and features the work of Xu Yadong, Yuan Yuan, The Siberian Butterfly, Shi Tou & Ming Ming, Huang Yue, and Flour. There are also tea ceremonies and live calligraphy in the gallery. Several of the artists will be at the exhibition daily.
(images via Facebook / Galerie Verbeeck-Van Dyck)