'Stand By Her' focuses on female expression

Song Xinyi
Through paintings, installations and sculptures by female artists, a new exhibition highlights challenges faced by modern women.
Song Xinyi
SSI ļʱ
Stand By Her focuses on female expression

Focusing on female exploration and expression, “Stand By Her,” an exhibition created by women, debuted on Sunday at M50 Innovation+ Space.

Phrases like “domestic violence,” “cooling-off divorce,” “glass ceiling” and “body shaming” have seen unprecedented popularity on Chinese social media these days, igniting discussions about the problems some women face in this fast-paced society.

Focusing on female exploration and expression, “Stand By Her,” an exhibition created by women, debuted on Sunday at M50 Innovation+ Space.

Stand By Her focuses on female expression
Stand By Her

(From left) Qian Jun, director of M50 Innovation+ Space; curator Liang Yu, artist Liu Xi, and author and curator Zhu Yujie


Co-curated by author Zhu Yujie and Liang Yu, founder of the gender research and advocacy organization “Stand By Her,” the exhibition features 12 female artists, including Chen Xin, He Yu, Juju Wang and Yang Su. They offer paintings, sculptures, installations, photography and performances. 

“As women, we are eager to bring the subjectivity back in. And we hope that through this female-dominated exhibition, more female-related problems can be tackled for women, by women and from the perspective of women,” said Liang.

Stand By Her focuses on female expression
Stand By Her

Visitors pose for a photo at the opening ceremony of exhibition “Stand By Her.”

At the opening ceremony, Zhang Yu, executive dean of the Gender and Culture Research Center at Shanghai University of Science and Technology, Shen Yang, a professor at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Wu Haixun, a chief editor at Sixth Tone, “CJ7” star Xu Jiao, Chinese soccer player Zhao Lina and several prominent women from the fields of industry shared their views and experiences on major issues such as sexism, gender bias, reproductive rights and female health.

Stand By Her focuses on female expression
Stand By Her

Zhou Wenjing’s “Women Series: IUDs”

A narrow stairway with red-painted walls presents the first major work of the exhibit, Zhou Wenjing’s “Women Series: IUDs.” Over 300 tightly coiled stainless steel rings illustrate the risks women in China faced during the late 1970s and early 1980s from this type of embedded contraceptive device.

“I was overwhelmed with mixed feelings when I saw this,” said 27-year-old Zhang Peixuan, recalling her mom’s challenging IUD removal surgery. “She suffered inflammation for over 15 years and was diagnosed with a cervical tumor. Thank God it was benign.”

Stand By Her focuses on female expression
Stand By Her

A volunteer introduces Ilona Szwarc’s work to a visitor at the exhibition "Stand By Her."


“I can’t say for sure if vasectomy is better, but contraception should be a multi-pronge effort and women shouldn’t have to live a life of pain,” she added.

In the era of “herstory in the making,” these artists portray female issues from a more radical, expansive and women-oriented aspects.

Crossover artist Song Santu captures gender bias and reexamines sexual and physical shame in her work “Breaking Infinity.” In Los Angeles-based Ilona Szwarc’s project, “The woman who presents herself to the spectator as a ‘picture’ forever arranged,” she explores her sense of self as a Polish immigrant and a woman. Sculpture master Liu Xi tells the story of hardship and sacrifice of motherhood in her series entitled “Mother,” an installation of 18 clay washboards.

Stand By Her focuses on female expression
Stand By Her

Chen Xin's installation “A Room of One’s Own”

While appreciating the journey of women working together to eliminate the patriarchal filter, visitors are welcome to take part in forums and lectures held every weekend, delving into topics like "man-explaining," sexual fluidity, sex education, women’s power and cyberfeminism. They can also purchase artworks and all the money will be used to help women in period poverty. 

“I hope this exhibition of female subjectivity will become part of our public memory,” said Zhu, “Join her journey; stand by her.”

Exhibition info

Date: Through November 25 (closed on Mondays), 10am-6pm

Venue: M50 Innovation+ Space

Address: 2/F, 76 Moganshan Rd

Forum: Men Explain Things to Me

Date: November 7, 2pm-4pm

Lecture: Sex Education

Date: November 8, 2:30pm-5pm

Forum: Artistry Creativity and Commence — Women’s Power

Date: November 14, 2pm-4pm

Forum: A Room of One’s Own

Date: November 22, 2pm-4pm

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