Artist subverts gender norms with clever photography series

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Annie Stevens

Yijun Liao's Experimental Relationship. Image via Bust.com

Yijun Liao's Experimental Relationship. Image via Bust.com

Chinese artist Yijun Liao has a boyfriend five years younger than her. For Liao, this has been something that took time for her to adjust too - and her friends still don't quite understand.

She told Bust of growing up in China and thinking about relationships, “I used to think I could only love someone who is older and more mature than me, who can be my protector and mentor.”

In her series of self-portraits in Experimental Relationship, the artist subverts gender expectations and power roles in poses with her younger man. She eats papaya off his naked body, she is fully clothed tweaking his nipple while he is in his underpants he wears a dress, he is made into a piece of human sushi with the doona cover.

Yijun Liao's Experimental Relationship. Image via Bust.com

Yijun Liao's Experimental Relationship. Image via Bust.com

It's a startling and poignant work of art that explores just how easily we can buy into ideals, and what a relationship and indeed a person should be.

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The series also challenges wider expectations of dating and relationships in China. 

As Monica Tan wrote of her experience in a Chinese dating course on how to find an 'elite' husband, there are still some pretty rock solid gender norms in Chinese society when it comes to dating, relationships and marriage.

"Of course, stigma against unmarried career women of a certain age exists everywhere. And fighting entrenched gender norms – such as the idea women should "marry up" – has been a long and slow process that even in highly industrialised societies remains incomplete," she wrote.  

Which is why Yijun Liao's Experimental Relationship is so important, because it is experimental in that it's not exactly what is expected of her. And breaking out of those expectations is a liberating and beautiful thing. 

Source: Bust

More images at Lens Scratch