798 stands for much more than a three digit number: in Beijing these numbers symbolize the country's cutting edge art movement led by the Chinese vanguard, unchained artistic personalities with alternative life goals. Wild and unconquered attitudes waft inside 798's free and rambling atmosphere. This area feels a kinship to what can be discovered and sensed along the Left Bank in Paris or around Greenwich Village in NYC.
Photographers explore paradoxes between the sexes

ByWu Jin
China.org.cn staff reporter

The relationship between men and women is an enduring topic for artists in the creation of fantasy and the exploration of irony. A collective exhibition held by Paris-Beijing Photo Gallery follows this trend – sophisticated interactions between modern Chinese men and women are unveiled through a number of sexually explicit pictures.

Titled "Between the Sexes", the exhibition is composed of six sets of photos:Soap Opera,Solution Scheme,Another Episode II,Dream-like Love,I'm so BoredandOpposite, in which seductive women are posed with a herd of lustful men, young and old, handsome and unattractive.

The protagonist portrayed by artist Liu Lijie in her photo series--Another Episode II--is enshrouded in loneliness in a cold room decorated with a framed picture in which a man peeks through a red-lens telescope. As a contributor to the collective exhibition on the theme of "Between the Sexes" held by Paris-Beijing Photo Gallery, Liu illuminates an adult woman's daily life, haunted, cornered and challenged by a group of men. [China.org.cn]

Shot by a national group representing both emerging and prominent photographers, including Yan Zhuangmei, Liu Lijie and Li Wei, the photos reflect the innermost feeling of the Chinese, living in a period when modernity encounters tradition, and sexual freedom collides with morality and equality. Combining expressions of confusion, hurt, and mockery, the female models dominate an exhibition in which urban women's innocence, attractiveness and loneliness are portrayed.

According to the gallery's press release, whether set up by a male or a female photographer, the woman is always the main protagonist. The camera follows her as the narrative develops, generating tension and humor through an imbalance in the interplay of sexual identity.

Tian Ji, organizer of the exhibition, explained to China.org.cn: "The female protagonist is likely to be seen as the central figure in a relationship. The female photographers express their inner feelings in relation to men, either in Yan Zhuangmei's display of sexual freedom or Liu Lijie's build-up of fear and anxiety. Fascination with the opposite sex is probably the link between the male photographers, whereas the eyes of the women mirror the beauty or fatality of love and passion."

Imperceptible emotions and hidden stories surface before the camera lens, through which intriguing relationships are portrayed in bold and sometimes exaggerated ways. Coincidentally clad in similar white sleeveless suit dresses, the working women inAnother Episode IIby Liu andDream-like Loveby Li reveal their loathing of the men who either challenge or love them, though with different reactions. The protagonist in Liu's works, easily caught by a pair of scarlet silk stockings, cannot conceal her chill and helplessness when being relentlessly followed, cornered and suppressed by a group of seemingly powerful men. Meanwhile Li portrays an apparently insatiable lover who scorns every move of her crazy pursuer, whose head alone appears in the photos.

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