“I think love is a kind of religion.”

Born 1962, Hangzhou, Zhejiang

Xiao Lu is best known not for making an artwork but for shooting one. A few months before the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, she fired a pistol at her phone-box installation Dialogue during a group exhibition in Beijing. This act—which got the show shut down and Xiao Lu briefly arrested—embodied one of the key themes in contemporary art, an apolitical preoccupation with ziwo, “I myself.” Sperm (2006) shares that solipsism, recording in a bleak installation and a documentary-style video Xiao Lu’s search for a sperm donor. Having recently split up with her longtime partner, the artist, then approaching 40, was “crazy” to have a child, she recalls, but Chinese women were not allowed IVF treatment unless they were married. A Western doctor said he would inseminate her if she could collect and freeze the necessary sperm. The work is a monument to the failure of that quest—which the video suggests was inevitable once she decided that the donor must be a fellow artist.

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