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Curator's Note

In Shadows. Hasn’t been seen, doesn’t mean does not exist, on this journey of discovering the very little exposed Chinese mainland fetish scene in artistic form has been an eye opener and mind blast for me. This once considered conservative culture has evolved and finding it’s own style to express it’s passion and desire. I grew up in china mainland and left for Europe in 2005 (and later to Australia), in 17 years, China has evolved, progressed and changed to something I don’t recognise anymore, yet packed full of surprises when you look deeper into it. This exhibition is just a small glimpse into what’s out there in the underground queer scene of China, which I found stylish, edgy and experimental. What do we do in shadows? When no one is watching, when no one is judging, when we are free to be who we are and express our true selves. Explore the little exposed fetish side, through the lens of a single historical culture, from places close and far. Staged by Zhipéng Guo (Sir Z), from artists he admires Zhipéng Guo Melbourne 2024

Zhipeng Guo Born in Zhengzhougraduated from Politecnico de Milano with a master degree in Design Strategy, and is now living and working in Melbourne, Australia. Since early 2023 Zhipeng has been facilitating rope bondage demonstrations as Sir Z at The Laird, the most well known Australia leather bar and longest running gay-owned and operated venue.

An Essay

Imagining/Imaging Queer China 恋影 / in Shadows shines a deeply queer light on sexualities and fetishism in China and its diaspora. This exhibition celebrates a selection of work created by ethnically Chinese artists (including professional photographers and those who enjoy documenting their own lives) who identify as part of the LGBT+ communities in China, Australia, and the US. It also proposes the possibility of a queer China through photographic works of art, which—against normative definitions of the body, place, gender identity, fixed meanings of sex and sexuality, established boundaries of eroticism—reveal the transgressive aspects of marginalised sex and sexual cultures against the backdrop of existing sociocultural and institutional norms. The exhibition and the artists selected by the curator Zhipéng Guo (Sir Z) naturally reflect the diversity of (queer) China and its diaspora. Although a small display, it brings together artists based in and out of China, including Beijing, Chongqing, Los Angeles, and Melbourne, to explore the diverse voices, desires, practices, and lived experiences of queer communities in China and Chinese queer diasporas around the globe. The key themes that overlap through this exhibition are thick, juicy, spicy, steamy, and (a bit) sweaty, and represent various practices that have been documented in Chinese history across many times and continue to develop in a celebratory mood among particular groups of people. in Shadows covers metallic body paint, body wrap, rope bondage, love of foot/socks/sneakers, pup play, chastity, and more – including the new development of erotic play centred on COVID medical equipment. Together, the artists and their photographs in in Shadows acknowledge the contemporary collective socioeconomic and cultural struggles (the ‘shadowy’ yet not the negative side) for sexual liberation and freedom of expression, which are important resources for the thinking/imagining of a queer China. They are also the optimistic ‘pleasures’ of the creative use of both physical space (as evidenced in the photographs of SIR taken in a hotel room and Zee Art’s ‘Ruins’ series taken in derelict buildings in China) and virtual space (many of the mainland-China-based artists regularly post their works on social media such as (restricted in China) X). The exhibition highlights that queerness can create parallel conversations about non-normative eroticism in historical periods of time (for example, the love of foot is nothing new in Chinese culture as seen in many literary and cultural productions), and what is emerging now (such as eroticism in personal protective equipment, which was commonly seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as medical masks). These feelings felt and captured by the artists will be experienced by all audiences during the Midsumma Festival in Melbourne at XYZ Photo Gallery. in Shadows is as much an act of documenting as it has visualised a fragmentary, nuanced, yet discernible picture of imagining a queer China. It brings visibility to queer individuals, communities, and works but also records visuality and the presence of a network of connection, belonging, and commonality across sexual and gender divides, spaces, and borders. The works on display serve as a convenient mirror for viewing an intimate area of human experience, instigating conversations about queer experience from past and present. Through this mirror, I, as an audience member, have been inspired to look back further into the history of the queering of myself then in China and now as a part of its queer diaspora in Australia. In the shadow, I also lovingly commemorate the photographer Ren Hang任航—a friend of mine back in Beijing before his death in 2017—who dismantled stereotypes about bodies and genders and who captured the minor, yet loud voices of queer China the same way his fellow comrades are doing today, here, and there. Yahia Ma, 20 Jan 2024 Collingwood, Melbourne

Yahia Ma was born in China, now lives, studies, and works in Australia. He teaches Chinese-English translation, researches queer Chinese literature, and translates texts on contemporary Chinese art.

Gallery's Directors Note

Other voices, other rooms Within the curation and gatekeeping of photography in Australia, the battleline of diversity has long been around gender. In the late 90s, I asked Sandra Byron why i, females where in positions of power in the major galleries. She related a history, that in the early 1970s women were starting to graduate from art history courses in greater numbers and the males in galleries held tightly to painting, sculpture, and other high profile media. Photography was the upstart, the debate as to whether it is art was ongoing. Women took these roles and now dominate the space. While we keep the focus on gender, we miss the more obvious thing about this group of people, myself included, we are all of European descent. An exception is Anouska Phizacklea at MAPH who is Russian. In Australia it is easier to list famous female photographers than males. How this plays for example, MAPH’s 100 Faces exhibition had all the white males artist packed into the first and most dense room. My formative years were spent in a multicultural circles in gay Sydney. I completed a research masters on comparative masculinity - Chinese/Anglo Australian. Then spent three and a half years in Beijing, I worked half that time at Red Gate Gallery. This makes me more empathetic and have greater understanding of photography from China. Yet I still fit this on the matrix of ideas that have been prevalent to my cultural upbringing. While there, I was perplexed by the choices western galleries choices of artists to show. Au Wei Wei a particular favorite, is not so loved in the Beijing arts scene, as many saw his work as too obvious. Other artists dealt with the same themes in less didactic ways, are ignored. No matter how much one occupies the in-between space the matrix may bend from that of one’s the first culture but rarely reconstituted. If the gatekeepers are of a particular mindset that affects who and what they promote. As a migrant artist, the quickest way to get attention, is to forefront the colonial history that your family had to engage with, particularly if this can project ‘white-guilt’, except if you are of Irish descent. If you are not born in the west your work should have an element of autobiography. Further find elements of your ‘home’ culture and art histories, to exploit, this helps the art’s industry that considers and writes about you. Is that the only themes that artists who are not of European descent want to make work about? Are there themes and concerns that our matrix doesn’t allow to be considered. XYZ Photo Gallery is my way of starting to change the conversation. Initially by a light hand in the curation, picking theme and hang order of artists. Now allowing visions not seen to be on the walls. This exhibition is curated by 郭志鹏 Zhipéng Guo a graduate of the Art College in Zhengzhou. I made the suggestion of the subject, which developed into his passion project. I have granted him control, providing support. He researched and short listed artists and work. We reviewed the work and discussed the layout. My contributions to the curation is light. This is the first of many exhibitions XYZ would like to stage, where we invite outside curators to control who the artists being seen are and what work and themes are presented. Garrie Maguire Melbourne 2024

garrie maguire was born in Grafton. He has lived in all three of the eastern seaboard capitals as well as Beijing and Manila. He has a research degree from RMIT in the comparative masculinity (Australian and Chinese) and its intersection with photography. He is a life long photography obsessive.  

The Artists
侶가 Zee Art 

The artist wishes to keep anonymity and let the images speak for themselves.

繼렌 Tong Se Fang

The artist wishes to keep anonymity and let the images speak for themselves.


The artist wishes to keep anonymity and let the images speak for themselves.

Dee 묏鱗杆 Studio Dee 

The artist wishes to keep anonymity and let the images speak for themselves.

in the director's space
Thee Domasan

Thee Domasan is born in Taiwan and moved to Los Angeles where he now lives and works. He is an equal opportuntity bondage dom. Documenting one's art work is important and this body of work is huge. 

Sir Z

The artist wishes to keep anonymity and let the images speak for themselves.

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