This awesome photo book examines the ‘fetishization’ of Asian girls.
Elizabeth Gabrielle Lee is the 23-year-old Singapore-bred, London-based shutterbug with a razor sharp eye and penchant for saucy subversion. Exploring themes of erotica, vulnerability, cultural cliches, sexuality and stereotypes, Elizabeth’s new book, ‘XING’, showcases a clutch of cool creatives and their eye-popping images. Vivian Fu, Clara Lee, and Ronan Mckenzie, for instance, use mimicry and inverse systems that disarm and disorient, depicting Asian babes in all their ‘exotic beauty and erotic docility.’
Takuya Nagata and Teresa Eng lens youthful lassies (all delicately dolled up, of course) in which ‘Asian beauty’ assumes an overtly objectified and emotional dimension. Tammy Volpe taps into the symbology and semiotics of ‘Asianness’ and the multiple meanderings and feedback loops between East and West. Mayumi Hosokura exoticizes her subjects, enveloping them in mystery, fantasy and ‘sexualized’ artistic energy. The book is an utterly astute, materially masterful pictorial essay that will make your heart palpitate.
‘XING’ is a Chinese word (pronounced ‘sheeng’ — 性 or 兴) that means many things: ‘sex’, ‘sexuality’, ‘gender’, to wake up’, ‘to grow aware’, ‘happiness’, and/or the ‘essence of a person.’ Through a visual discourse of ‘Othering’, Elizabeth aptly exploits the homophonic nature of Chinese, and brilliantly and beautifully portrays the often pejorative stereotyping of Asian women. “Not all of us are petite, slim, docile and submissive”, she argues. “Dainty and demure is not a universal ‘Asian’ trait.”
The idea for the book was borne out of Brexit and the rise of racially motivated hate crimes and various forms of discrimination in the UK. Elizabeth witnessed first-hand the myriad cultural misunderstandings towards minority groups and the bubbling-up of biases along with bromidic populism (re: Nigel Farage of UKIP, Trump in America, etc.). “I saw an opportunity and a dire need to address the misconceptions of these ‘Othered’ groups through the language of photography,” she explains. “Thanks to my own ‘awakening’ of sorts, I started engaging with the work of Asian artists, including my contemporaries and those of yesteryear.”
Inspired by artistic legends like Shoji Ueda, Nobuyoshi Araki and Rinko Kawauchi, alongside directors Wong Kar Wai, Yang Fu Dong and Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Elizabeth sought to tap deeper into her Chinese heritage. Ultimately, though, she says it’s been her interactions with other Asian women based in the UK that has largely fueled the book: “Their experiences fall far from monotonous and it is always a lesson gained each time I speak with my subjects.”
“I hope the book is a message to the West (as well as its Eastern counterparts) that the Asian female identity is multifarious, and it is ever-changing and independent.”
With a coinciding exhibition, ‘XING’ launches tonight in London at Hackney’s Enterprise House from 7-11pm. A digital archive showcasing research materials and motifs that made the book come to life can be viewed here.
Images via ‘XING‘
VIVISXN MEDIA – Art + Photography