Xiyadie (b. 1963) is a self-taught traditional Chinese papercut artist who started creating works with homoerotic themes to tell his personal narrative of transformation. Meaning “Siberian Butterfly”, Xiyadie is a self-chosen name, following the artist’s move to Beijing as a migrant worker in the early 2000s, where he first encountered an accepting community in the burgeoning gay subcultural scene. Surviving in the most difficult conditions, Siberian butterflies are northern creatures which, despite the harshest conditions, maintain their beauty and freedom, much like the political environment for the queer community at the time (samesex sexual activity in China was only legalised in 1997).
In the late 1980s, Xiyadie’s native Shaanxi Province was a centre of folk arts, including papercutting, which originated in the Eastern Han Dynasty (25–220 CE). Xiyadie subverts this historical form by depicting scenes of queer eroticism, where homosexual virility is as central to the biosphere as the fertilisation of gardens and animal life. The artist made Sorting sweet potatoes during his residency at MGLC’s Švicarija as a commission for the Biennial. Portraying the horizontality of vernacular, everyday ritual against the climax of sexual acts, Xiyadie’s work squarely places issues such as sexuality and gender in those media, contexts and disciplines where it has been historically erased: from crafts to communism.
Venue: Equrna Gallery
Don’t worry, mom is spinning thread in the next room (A love scene, when a high school student is at home writing homework), 2019; paper, scissors and pigments; 140×140 cm.
Courtesy of the artist.