The Atlantic

How Berlin Became an Unlikely Home for China’s Artists

The German capital not only offers freedom, but also invites people to provoke and challenge orthodoxy.
Source: Courtesy of Marvin Girbig

BERLIN—We were packed, about 50 of us, a collection of Germans, Chinese, even a prim-looking, older university lecturer, into a converted storefront in a working-class neighborhood of northwest Berlin. I glanced nervously out the giant street-level windows at the people walking by, concerned that some passing child might peek in and see what was projected on the wall.

On-screen, two women were having sex with gusto. Titled The Hutong Vibe, the short film is regarded as the first feminist queer porn made in China—lesbian sex not produced and marketed for heterosexual men, but an art-house project made for lesbians. Made by Fan Popo, a 34-year-old Chinese LGBTQ activist, it was part of a series of short films he curated.

The film also had added significance: Fan could not have shown it publicly back home. In fact, none of the films in the series will be available in China anytime soon. Fan titled the evening “F*ck the Censorship: Welcome to

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