Art Exhibition by Women, for Women Held in Shanghai

“Stand By Her” kicked off over the weekend with works from 12 artists shining a spotlight on women’s bodies, motherhood, and their struggles.

SHANGHAI — In a dark, silent room, artist He Yu lays on the floor, a pair of lit candles resting on her breasts. Slowly, audience members walk toward her, taking turns to light their own candles, illuminating the entire room in minutes.

This scene was part of a performance art piece at “Stand By Her,” an exhibition curated and created by women and mostly for women audiences that kicked off in Shanghai over the weekend. According to the artist, her candlelit performance titled “The Light of Gaia” — the breast-shaped candles were made from her breast milk — was a tribute to the Greek goddess said to be the mother of all life, and a reminder of powerful yet largely unacknowledged female energy.

“I am an artist with a clear sense of female consciousness, and I’m proud of that,” she told Sixth Tone. “I know that some female artists will shirk this identity, as they don’t want to be labeled. But avoiding the identity cannot solve their struggle, so why not embrace it instead?”

“Stand By Her” is one of a handful of recent exhibitions to combine art and activism for the purpose of amplifying social messages, though themes such as gender and sexuality can be subject to extra scrutiny. The nearly monthlong exhibition features 12 female artists whose works focus on gender issues, including women’s bodies, motherhood, and their struggles.

Artist Chen Xin’s installation “A Room of One’s Own” explores contemporary cyberfeminism while referencing Virginia Woolf’s essay of the same name, about creating a space for women writers in a literary tradition long dominated by men. Visitors can write down their feelings and drop them in a nearby black box labelled “silence.” Meanwhile, a video titled “No One Is an Outsider” features girls’ handwritten letters collected from over 600 sexual abuse survivors, each detailing an instance of mistreatment. Continue to read the full article here


– This article originally appeared on Sixth Tone.