In conjunction with New Photography: Create, Collect, Compile, one of the four represented artists in the exhibition, Guanyu Xu, spoke with Russell Lord, Freeman Family Curator of Photographs, Prints, and Drawings.
Born and raised in Beijing in a seventeenth-floor apartment of a military housing complex, Guanyu Xu (Chinese, b. 1993) came to the United States to attend graduate school at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Growing up, he was prohibited from hanging posters in his bedroom, so instead he collected, and surreptitiously admired, clippings from magazines ranging from images of the new Captain America to classic Hollywood movie stars. Once in the United States, he both embraced and confronted his role as an outsider, producing images and projects about the relationship between his homeland and this country. He also began to fully visualize his own identity as a gay man, making a series of portraits of nude men, many of whom he found through dating apps. In 2018, Xu printed images from each of these series, folded them into his suitcase, and brought them back to his family home in Beijing. When his parents left for the day, Xu carefully arranged these images throughout the apartment and meticulously rephotographed his temporary installation, working quickly and before his parents returned. Although his parents have supported his work as a photographer from afar, he had been careful to share only the most innocuous images: landscapes, sunsets, and pictures of road signs. He doubts that they are aware of the depth of his cross-cultural critique, or even his sexual orientation. This project, Temporarily Censored Home, allowed Xu to weave together an honest and multifaceted narrative, in pictures, about his own identity, desires, and his contentious relationship with his upbringing.