Beijing-raised, Chicago-based Guanyu Xu’s latest series, Temporarily Censored Home processes the complexities of living and working as a queer artist across cultures of freedom and restriction.
A recent graduate of School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s MFA program, Guanyu Xu is free to pursue projects that examine his intersectional experience of race, sexuality, and citizenship when in the United States. In Beijing, however, where Xu grew up and where his parents presently live, revealing these significant personal details and their importance to his creative practice gets complicated. It invites unwanted attention from both family and a repressive political regime that prides itself on controlling the lives of its citizens.
In his latest series, Temporarily Censored Home, for which the artist was recently shortlisted for Aperture’s prestigious 2019 Portfolio Prize, Xu covertly creates installations in his parents Beijing home when they are unaware, and photographs them. Straddling a line between installation art, sculpture, and photographic document, he combines images from his childhood and adolescence with portraits of his present-day self and other gay men, forcing an otherwise censored space to recognize his humanity.
After a productive portfolio review at SPE National in March, we communicated about his latest work ad the experience and ideas driving it. He wrote at length about how desire is shaped, the tension of mounting and breaking down clandestine installations while his parents are out of the house, and the varied media and textual sources that influence his practice.
Roula Seikaly in conversation with Guanyu Xu.