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Lao Xie Xie's reckless provocations

Photography

The mysterious Chinese photographer Lao Xie Xie (“Mr Thank-you” who might be a woman) immortalises moments of life with a complete loathing for perfection. Evoking desire, pleasure and food, the artist’s reasoning works backwards with photography allowing him to shape what he is incapable of mentally constructing.

“Suck it”, Lao Xie Xie. Courtesy of Lao Xie Xie.

We can’t help but focus on the haircut. Short and uncertain. A washed-out green that turns white at the ends. Then we gaze at the atrophied eyebrows, two unequal bands as if erased at their ends to better reveal the almond eyes with their dark iris. We’re fascinated by the four piercings forming an imperfect square on the left brow bone. Planted in the white flesh like that, they accentuate the asymmetry of the face. The final blow is that cheek swollen from the inside by what looks like an eel. The woman holds the inert fish in her hand mimicking the act of fellatio. Her gaze is morose and focused on the lens. 

 

What does this photograph say about Lao Xie Xie's work? Pretty much everything. It evokes the photographer's relationship with the body - often naked - which always invites us to examine things that are nevertheless obvious. It captures the confidence of women who never act against their will. It sums up the attraction of the mysterious Chinese artist (a man or a woman) for obscenity, the desacralisation of sex and the representation of desire… By embedding a punk-like silhouette against a sanitized cream background, Lao Xie Xie surprises us 

 

 

Lao Xie Xie compiles a world made up of contradictions, at the heart of the Chinese underground, there where identities are shaped – among other things – by sexuality.   

Lao Xie Xie. Courtesy of Lao Xie Xie.

It is very difficult to approach the work of a photographer who refuses to define themselves as such. Born in a poor village in the Sichuan province, southwest China, Lao Xie Xie started out selling Baozi, those stuffed steamed buns so popular in Chinese cuisine. One day, a friend gave him a camera and he decided to capture moments of life, loathing the perfection of any image that is smooth and without roughness. This was the birth of Lao Xie Xie, which roughly translates as “Mr. Thank you”.

 

 

Lao Xie Xie photographs an abdomen strewn with droplets of semen and rethinks Origine du monde in a less raw, less obvious, and paradoxically more trashy version. 

  

 

Surprisingly, Lao Xie Xie – about whom very little is known – has an approach that works backwards: the photographer allows himself to shape what he is incapable of mentally constructing. He sets out in search of one thing and one thing alone: his own satisfaction. Faced with his works, we can’t help but think of his counterpart Lin Zhipeng (without composition) and Pixy Yijun Liao (without dreams). For a long time his companion was an Olympus Zoom 105, the ideal pocket camera for capturing spontaneous shots. When he’s not satisfied, Lao Xie Xie resorts to Photoshop and collages.

Courtesy of Lao Xie Xie.

“San Giorgio”, Lao Xie Xie. Courtesy of Lao Xie Xie.

The photographer conceals the breasts of his models with scarlet lanterns, and places small plastic dragons by the genitals. He superimposes snapshots of Chinese culture on top of what the state censors. Without taboo, no desire, and vice versa. Lao Xie Xie creates a world of contradictions and enters the heart of the Chinese underground, where identities are shaped-among other things - by sexuality. Note also the multiple references to birth, logically linked to the sexual act. Lao Xie Xie, for example, captures an abdomen strewn with droplets of semen and rethinks the Origine du monde in a less raw, less obvious and paradoxically more trashy version. The evocation arouses desire, again. Elsewhere, the photographer immortalizes a foot in a bathtub treading on what could be blood or spilt tea. Equivocal or not, swallowing becomes an Ariadne’s thread because, when it’s captured in this way, the sexual drive becomes a vital commodity, always associated with lips that ingest yet never speak. 

Courtesy of Lao Xie Xie.

Courtesy of Lao Xie Xie.

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