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

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic4 min readSociety
The Books Briefing: Books From Our Fathers
This Sunday, families in the United States will celebrate fatherhood—a role that, like motherhood, carries the weight of personal and cultural legacies both poignant and fraught. In Laila Lalami’s novel The Other Americans, a young woman wrestles wit
The Atlantic5 min readPolitics
Hong Kong’s Protesters Earn a Victory. They Will Need More.
Officials in Hong Kong said they would suspend controversial proposed legislation. There will be other efforts to erode the city’s freedoms.
The Atlantic6 min read
Tip Your Hotel Maid
My grandmother worked in housekeeping for 10 years—and it’s a job where you could use a gratuity.