When I was abroad in Prague, Czech Republic – I was able to go to the DOX Center for Contemporary Art. What a fabulous place. The building is off the beaten path but well worth the cab ride.
Poet and photographer Liu Xia (*1959) is a banned artist in China, and her work can only be seen in private or on the internet.
She is the wife of Liu Xiaobo, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and political prisoner, who was sentenced in 2009 to 11 years in prison for co-authoring Charter 08, a liberal manifesto, in which he called for an open discussion on the implementation of democracy in his country. This challenge, signed by tens of thousands of Chinese citizens including leading representatives of the academic and art scene, was inspired by Charter 77 and the ideas of former Czech president Václav Havel. Václav Havel played an important role in international efforts calling for Liu Xiaobo‘s release, and he asked Liu Xia to show her photographs in Prague as part of this campaign.
Since 2010, when Liu Xiaobo received the Nobel Peace Prize, Liu Xia has been under illegal house arrest with no means of communicating with the outside world. Her strangely unsettling photographs featured in the exhibition entitled The Silent Strength of Liu Xia were created in 1996–1999 during her husband’s forced stay in a labour camp, and reveal the unofficial Chinese reality, subject to repression and censorship.
On 17 February 2014, Amnesty International issued an “urgent action” on Liu Xia due to her critical state of health, caused by her long-term isolation.
Seeing her work was really powerful and emotional for me. Especially watching the video of people breaking past the guards to see her. In the exhibition, the video was subtitled.
Some of her photography:
My iphone photos of the exhibition:
TL;DR – this exhibition was really powerful and sad at the same time. It pains my heart that Liu Xia is still under house arrest with no contact to the outside world.