Chinese view of gender, sexuality probed

Courtesy PhotoMu Xi’s video titled “Moth” is an arresting work on view in “Women” at the Chinese Cultural Center in The City.

“Women,” a show of contemporary works by 13 male and female artists from China and America addressing issues of gender and sexual identity, is particularly bold and unusual.

On view at the Chinese Cultural Center in The City through Dec. 15, the varied display — of video works, installation art, drawings, paintings and photographs — deals with feminism, sexuality and homosexuality with an openness rarely seen in Chinese art exhibitions.

Curated by Abby Chen, the center’s deputy director, the show debuted in 2011 in Shanghai as the official exhibition of the Conference on Chinese Women and Visual Representation.

Describing the exhibition’s origin, Chen refers to a new “outburst of theory, writing and visual representation” on feminist and gender issues in China. Topics such as combating sexual harassment, financial empowerment of rural women, queer culture and sexual diversity were invisible until recently.

Because China is influenced by American discourse on such topics, she says, “For this show, I wanted to bring together the work of artists living in China with local Bay Area artists to explore these issues in an interconnected way.”

The exhibit’s sheer variety is overwhelming.

Abstract and moving, Shanghai-based Mu Xi’s video “Moth” — which juxtaposes changing images of a dancer and an insect and shows the transformation from larva to butterfly — is arresting.

In his statement, the artist explains, “Gender awareness in adolescence is vague and has diverse possibilities. I wanted to explore the differences between male and female, empathy toward and curiosity about the opposite gender, and its psychological impact.”

Bay Area artists Adam Tow and Rae Chang, a husband-and-wife team, created a provocative interactive iPad display, “Autumn Gem.” The piece tells the story of Qiu Jin, who has been called the “Chinese Joan of Arc.”

Celebrated as a heroine today, the radical activist was executed in 1907 for leading an armed uprising against the corrupt Qing Dynasty.

The artists, also filmmakers, made a documentary of the same name, which will be shown at the center tonight.
In contrast, symbolic drawings by Liang Liting have a childlike style but depict sophisticated and sexual themes.

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