Queer art Whorehouse Chinese culture Sexuality celebration Genderqueer representation Erotic comedy Chinoiseries Sex work intersection Porny Days Festival Traditional Chinese brothels Positive queer representation Artistic collaboration Interactive performance LGBTQ+ activism Swiss Ballroom scene
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Yumo and Ziwei
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February 1, 2024
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What's behind 'The Little Whorehouse De Chinoise'?

The 'Little Whorehouse de Chinoise' is an artistic endeavor that celebrates sexuality, drawing inspiration from traditional Chinese brothels. Ziwei and Yumo came up with the idea to challenge the conventional wisdom and promote a more inclusive depiction of Chinese queerness. The sexy show at the Porny Days Festival highlights the duo's journey as sex workers and creatives through erotic humor, poetry, and cabaret.

Dany Niederhauser: Could you briefly describe the concept and the inspiration behind the Little Whorehouse de Chinoise?

Ziwei: The inspiration for the Little Whorehouse draws from the traditional Chinese brothel, known as (青楼Qing Lo) or the greenhouse. It serves as a place where sex workers entertain their guests. Within this space, sex workers are not only whores; they work as musicians, painters, or poets. We see this blend of artistic creativity and sex works a reflection of our own experience living in Europe. Our goal is to create such a space, not only for ourselves but also for individuals like us—Chinese immigrants and genderqueer people. It aims to create a social space where our sexualities can be openly discussed, celebrated and sold fairly and at the right price.

Yumo: Also, it is very deeply related to the Chinoiseries, which is part of our ongoing research. The term has existed since the time of Marco Polo’s travel to Asia. It represents a fantastical imagination about China: It is the Chinese-inspired interior design, ceramics, and paintings; It is the excessive ornaments featuring flowers and birds, dragons and phoenix; it was the obedient, hard-working Chinese wife; it is the weak, evil, and opium-smoking Chinese men; Chinoiseries can be bizarre, erotic, fantastical, humorous, harmful, and reductionist. Our whorehouse embraces the aesthetic beauty of Chinoiseries from a Chinese queer diasporic perspective, as opposed to when we were still in China.

Ziwei: We are influenced by traditional culture. Because there are very few representations of queer traditional Chinese culture, we are building this through our research about the traditional sexual queer space.

Yumo: I disagree, there's a lot of queer aesthetics in Chinese traditional culture. We are opposing a colonial stereotype gaze of being Chinese, of our body being exotic. When we take a step back, we realize that there are many beauty types that we can really relate to in our own culture. With this research process, we are trying to bring them again, trying to represent them. We're trying to explore the Chinese queerness that is related to us and bring it to a celebration in ways to encounter the Western gaze. We aim to find our own representation of what Chinese queerness means. I think this project took shape because of our two previous ones,  Chinoiserie Grand Gay Wedding, that related our experiences of being migrant queer people in Switzerland, especially in Zurich. We wanted to celebrate, but we found no space to celebrate, so our performance is very deeply related to space-making.

Dany: Well, so what kind of experience can the audience expect for your performance at the Porny Days Festival? And what do you hope the audience takes away from this performance?

Yumo: Our special Chinese sexiness. I want the audience to celebrate our sexiness and our sexuality together with us. 

Ziwei: I think part of it is also our humor. The realization came to me yesterday that we are in fact erotic comedians. We use a lot of humour related to our own expeirnece in China and the West as a way to process our trauma and to reflect on how our bodies are sexualized and objectified. So I think one expectation for the audience is that they can always laugh with us.

Dany: So how did your individual artistic style and background influence the creation of the Little Whore House of Chinoises?

Yumo: We were both sex workers. That’s a very direct connection and inspiration to this piece. As for myself, I started to use eroticism to fight against censorship ever since the beginning of my artistic practices. Two years ago I created a photo installation called Chinese Love Hotel where I exhibited photos taken in the hotels of China. So I think the whorehouse is an upgraded version of my Chinese Love Hotel.

Ziwei: I am a massage practitioner. I think I really enjoy giving massages. It's kind of a soft erotic practice and it has a lot of healing power. Through the Little Whorehouse, I want to bring that side of my identity and share it with people, to explore this kind of softness and soft eroticism with the public. The Whorehouse is also an exhibition of the various artistic projects that we created together and separately. You will see erotic photography, film about our life, and calligraphy. You will also see us perform lip-sync and cabaret performances. The Whorehouse is also an erotic party, where people gather and enjoy themselves. 

Dany: So what will happen tonight? Many of our readers sadly won't see and experience the performance. Could you give them a visual perspective of what will happen?

Yumo: It is actually a very interactive theatrical performance. We design an emotional flow throughout the performance. The performance starts in a very intimate setting, with us sharing our sexual experiences.

Ziwei: It will very heavy in the beginning. 

Yumo: And then we wanted to light up the house with a splendid beautiful opening ceremony. Then we give sexy lip sync performances and then we give a demonstration of our sexual services. As we mentioned, it's going to be a very erotic comedy. Then we give a cabaret show that’s supposed to be a competition between us to determine who’s the sexiest whore. 

Ziwei: We will do a little poetry-reading while doing a little lip sync. Then we’ll do some stripping while in drag. Then we drag our asses on the floor while juggling some balls. Then we put food on our body and sing. Yeah, something like that.

Dany: We need more performances like yours in Switzerland! I hope they’ll call you in for Lausanne or Geneva as well! So do you have a clear political message that you want to carry?

Ziwei: We have no clear political message. Our own message is “let's celebrate our sexuality”. I mean, I think just the fact that we exist, and shine is in itself a very strong message.

Yumo: Especially as who we are in Switzerland.

Dany: What were the biggest challenges and triumphs that you faced while working together on this project?

Yumo: We were actually in different cities but remotely working together. That was the biggest difficulty.

Ziwei: Yeah, Yumo is in Berlin, and I’m in Zürich, so it feels like a long distance relationship.

Yumo: We also changed our performances from the original ideas a lot, especially the amount of drama and the complexity of the whole show. Trying to bring everything in was sometimes too ambitious.

Ziwei: That's the thing! We want to do too much, then at the end, we have to simplify to make the message clearer.

Dany: So you're a part of the Swiss Ballroom scene. How did that shape your personal view on performance art and its role in addressing social issues?

Ziwei: I think Ballroom is really a kind of training. It's a party, but it's also an educational place for a lot of queer poc and queer immigrants in the Europe. The main thing that Ballroom brings me is the confidence. And it allow me to understand the craft, the time and the patience you need to assemble your performance. I’m not just talking about performance on stage, but a kind of performance in in our everyday lives. As queer people, we need to have this confidence, and invest time and energy in it, in ourselves, to be able to thrive. I'm forever in debt to the Ballroom scene and my mother, Tropikal Ivy Poderosa, for truly seeing me, as well as my sibling who supported me along the way.

Dany: Yumo, can you tell us about your Instagram post about seeking a European partner? And as it blurs the lines between art and personal life, can you share about how you balance these aspects in your day-to-day life?

Yumo: The first thing I want to address is that I have a sort of deportation experience from Switzerland. This is very traumatic because the migration process is very intensive and painful, and this is something I have to deal with every day. I think, in this process, I wanted to do something that had to do with activism but was also performative, that would help empower not only myself but would also maybe push people to question the system a little bit. This proposal is an activist move. It’s very humorous in an ironic way, but this is all related to my (and other people’s) experiences. We have seen there are many heated discussions regarding immigration in Europe, which is ironic considering its colonial history. This is something that I deeply care about.

On top of that, I think my whole life is becoming a live-in performance art. This way of using artistic practice as a survival methodology and seeing life as something to perform is part of a healing process. It empowers me while I’m struggling with this immigration system.

don't forget to check their Instagram accounts at:



Images 1-5 courtesy of the artists
Images 6-10 courtesy of Porny Days 2023 ©MichelGilgen


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