Speaking of Chinese modern and contemporary art, what will you think of? Propaganda posters in 1960s that highly resemble those during Soviet Union? Young artists gathered in Beijing East Village and their shocking performance art? Or Ai Weiwei’s rising finger in front of Tian’an men and his detainment by the authority? Today in Tate Modern, you have the chance to witness two of China’s most “non-submissive” artists in the 1990s, who were constantly exploring the boundaries between art, body and society, and who were persecuted by authority’s harsh censorship.
In Room 7, we can find three photographs of Ma Liuming, who is a male artist but has slender body and delicate visage of a charming lady. In one photo, Ma Liuming was making his face using lipstick and eye shadow, which made him even more stunning and elegant. Another two photos featured Ma preparing a fish in his dwelling—Beijing East Village. After putting fish in a steam pot, he took out a laundry pipe, inserted his penis in the one end, his mouth sucking the other. According to Ma, he was balancing and circulating Yin and Yang, which were represented by his body and his phallus respectively. This can also be considered as an intercourse, as in Chinese tradition, sex can be symbolized by fish as well as a coalesce of Yin and Yang. Ma Liuming was sent into prison because of his subversive performance and his “display of obscene scenes in the name of art”.
Just next to it, you can find a remade piece of Xiao Lu’s Dialogue, which is a pair of telephone stands that have a couple standing and dialing inside. This installation art was exhibited in 1989 Avant-garde exhibition in National Gallery Beijing. During the exhibition, Xiao Lu used a handgun and shot her artwork into pieces. She was arrested shortly after the gunshot, but her shocking act was still considered as highlight of the whole exhibition as well as a first fire for the 1989 Tiananmen demonstration. Though later in an interview with Tate, Xiao Lu explained that the gunshot was completely an accidental action, it is still endowed with political implications and treated as a corner stone of Chinese contemporary art history. Furthermore, it was also a moment that female artist stood out in a male-dominated art world in China.
The exhibitions are free. Take your chance to see it in Tate modern and I hope you enjoy it!