Growing up, Xu Guanyu wasn’t allowed to put up posters in his bedroom. But now, as an accomplished fine arts photographer, he’s finally gotten his revenge.
This vengeance came in the form of Temporarily Censored Home, an art piece that takes place entirely in his parents’ Beijing apartment, which sees every room of their home plastered with hundreds of photo printouts. “Some of these photos are family portraits from when I was around four of five,” Xu says. “There are also a lot of magazines I collected and works that I shot between 2014 and 2019.”
与其说是室内装置艺术，这倒更像是他的“报复性创作”。徐冠宇将这系列作品装置于北京父母家中，名为《暂时存在的家》。照片中已依稀难辨父母家中的装饰，因为照片贴满了家中的角角落落。“这些照片有从我四五岁时的家庭照片，有我十几岁时收集的杂志，也有我在 2014 年到 2019 年拍的摄影作品。”徐冠宇说。
Temporarily Censored Home is unadulterated visual chaos. The sheer diversity of imagery that appears, hung every which way according to Xu’s whims, makes every photographed room feel like a spatial collage. Maps, road signs, portraits of people he’s met, vacation photos, disparate landscapes, and more all come together in jumbled arrangements. Within the physical space, these snapshots, taken across different years, seem to subvert the notion of linear time, placing viewers in a limbo dimension where they’re able to gander at different moments of Xu’s life. Studying one of these shots for too long—with its overlapping layers of spaces and colors—can prove disorienting.
Xu’s meticulously designed visual cacophony conveys the power of memories, and the decision to create this project in his parents’ home isn’t without good reason “It’s the place where I spent my teenage years, which was an important period of time where I formed my worldview and desires,” Xu says. “‘Home’ is also a place that’s meant to protect a teenager from the instability of their teenage years. I’m sure everyone has their own stories related to school, love, sexuality, and failures around that time.”
While the posters were put up in secret while his parents weren’t home, they’re supportive of their son’s artistic endeavors. They understand that the takeover of their home was done in the name of art. “Though they don’t fully understand the images I’m showcasing,” he notes.
With this project, Xu also hopes for viewers to consider how the meaning of an image can change within different contexts. Much of his past work is focused on gender identity and sexuality, and one of the series he’s pinned up in this project is One Land to Another, which consists of self-portraits and staged moments between him and other gay men. The series’ initial debut in America placed a spotlight on the Asian LGBTQ community, but the images—originally exploring issues around homophobia, xenophobia, and misogyny—have completely new connotations with their reappearance in this project. “Pinning these printouts up in my Beijing house, they suddenly take on a different meaning,” he says. They take on new personal thematics in this familial setting, becoming an exploration of interpersonal relationships, family, and societal values.
创作这个项目的另一面，徐冠宇是想让观众思考，当处于不同的语境中时，图像是如何改变其本身的含义的。作为一个关注于性别议题的艺术家，徐冠宇这次选用的照片有很多来自于之前的个人摄影项目《One Land to Another》，这些照片是他在美国和其他男同志一起拍的，以表达性向、种族与公民身份之间的相互关系。在欧美语境中，他的作品曾掀起轩然大波，让人直视亚裔同性群体的存在。
As political tension mounts between China and the US over trade and the coronavirus, Xu has had to abandon or put off many of his plans this year. These forces outside of his control that have largely impacted his day to day are also an inspiration of sorts, beckoning him to question what “home” is. What kind of place feels like “home”? What does “home” even mean?
As he sees it, the idea of home as a sanctuary dissolving in modern times. Even when we’re home, our hyperconnected existence means everyone is still very much exposed to the dangers of the world at large. “To me, a home should be a safe place, a place where life’s uncertainties can be put to rest,” he says. “We’re obsessed with consuming content on our device screens, but if we don’t understand the media we’re consuming and their context, it can be detrimental because our knowledge and opinions can be easily influenced or manipulated.”
Xu Guanyu is the recipient of the 2020 Photofairs Exposure Award, and Temporarily Censored Home will be showcased along with the works of other shortlisted photographers on the Photofairs website between now and October 9th.
2020 年影像艺术博览会『曝光奖』最终获得者为徐冠宇（高台当代艺术中心），于 9月11日 – 10月9日在线上展示。