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

"Love is crazy, it is able to drive me to do the impossible," said Li, who completed the photo series without knowing exactly what a man feels when falling in love with a demanding woman, for he says such a thing has never occurred in his life. There is no doubt that it is the artists who directed the provoking scenarios with the camera, but it is hard to tell who manipulated the stories behind the scenes.

Artist Yan explains the photographer's role as saying: "Neither am I a god nor a prominent politician, the judgment of an ordinary person like me is of no importance to the relationship between the sexes. All I want to do is to bear silent witness to a group of men and women showing me who they are and how they interact."

A young woman cloaked under a red coat pops her head out from a bedroom closet opened by a half-dressed young man. Beside them, a plain girl with a wedding ring visible on her finger carefully stitches a plaid shirt. Secrets surface before the lens wielded by Yan Zhuangmei, a female photographer who unveils the contradictions and the bravado of the young in herSoap Operaseries. [China.org.cn]

Yet the stories captured by this female photographer contrast sharply with her modesty. In her collective photos, namedSoap Opera, barely-clothed young models pose against brightly colored backdrops, fancying, tricking or peeking at the opposite sex. Framed with them are colorful ballooned condoms, lipstick dotted cars, forested land and light pink closets – symbolizing love and betrayal, desire and boredom, as well as rebellion and confusion.

"With their hormones peaking, youngsters hold a vigorous yet destructive power that is substantially malleable. They occupy the stage at a time when innovation is sprouting under the haunting influence of tradition, a conflict that infuses their roles with uncertainties," said Yan, explaining that her works contain no element of eroticism. "Youth possesses both bravery and fragility. Young people remain innocent of their state whilst young, only to experience understanding and regret as youthfulness slips into maturity and old age."

The collective exhibition, running until May 30, is being held at the 798 Art District, a well-known modern art hub in Beijing, located at Dashanzi, No.4 Jiuxianqiao Rd, Chaoyang District.

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