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Sorman, Guy (English)

Guy Sorman

Guy Sorman

Liu Xia’s Photographs

By Guy Sorman, author and curator 

Liu Xia is the most significant photographer working in contemporary China. Using only black and white imagery, her photography is rooted in calligraphy, the historical source of all of the plastic arts in China. It is with these “Chinese shadows” that she describes both the national renaissance and the repression of contemporary China. Strange dolls that Liu Xia calls her “ugly babies” roam the countryside of Beijing; these creatures are intended to escape the incomprehensible censors, representing the human condition in China.

By presenting the dolls, Liu Xia both reveals and hides, each doll telling a story.

Living together with the dolls,

Surrounded by the power of silence,

The world open around us,

We communicate in gestures.

(“The Power of Silence,” November 1998)

Liu Xia, poet and photographer, is recognized and admired by the intellectual and artistic community in Beijing, but she is a forbidden artist. The original photos were first displayed publicly in Boulogne-Billancourt in October 2011. Before then, they could only be seen in private, while they quietly circulated among amateur connoisseurs in China. The original prints were not allowed to leave China. The exhibition at Boulogne-Billancourt was a world premiere.

Will we question this censorship? How is it that these photos anger the Chinese government? Liu Xia is passionate about freedom of expression, though she is not a political activist. She has been isolated under house arrest in Beijing since January 2011 without any charge or trial.

The crackdown on Liu Xia is unacceptable in terms of human rights, but it can be explained by the fact that she married Liu Xiaobo, the winner of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, who was imprisoned for “undermining state security.” What was the crime committed by Liu Xiaobo? He sent a letter to the Chinese Communist Party requesting that it open discussions for a democratic transition — a letter signed by tens of thousands of Chinese citizens, including the academic and artistic elite.

When asked why she shaves her head like a Buddhist monk, Liu Xia said that she will let her hair grow the day that Chinese artists are free to express themselves in their own country.

— Guy Sorman

Exhibition Curator

October 2011

Guy Sorman is one of France’s leading public intellectuals. He has often written in defense of free markets and the free society in Europe. As a columnist for the New York-based Project Syndicate, his work is published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines around the world. He also writes frequently for the op-ed page of The Wall Street Journal. Sorman has authored over twenty books, several of which have been translated into English, including The New Wealth of Nations, The Genius of India, Rifaa’s Children, The Empire of Lies, and 2009’s Economics Does Not Lie. In 1975, he founded the Editions Sorman publishing company in Paris. From 1993 to 1997, Sorman served as economic adviser to the French minister for foreign affairs, and then to the prime minister. Since 2000, he has chaired the India-France economic council. In 2008, he was appointed global advisor to Korean president Lee Myung Bak. He is the founder and former president of Action against Hunger, a leading NGO. From 2002 to 2007, he served on the French National Commission for Human Rights. From 1995 to 2008, he was the elected deputy mayor of the city of Boulogne-Billancourt, near Paris, and is now chairman of the city’s economic council.

(This is the English-language version of the essay written especially for the catalogue of the 2011 Paris premiere of the exhibition “The Silent Strength of Liu Xia,” as published in the catalogue for the 2012 New York showing at the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America, based at Columbia University. Text copyright © 2011 by Guy Sorman. All rights reserved.)

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