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Reading from cover ... to uncover
2013-10-19
By Ma Yue

A “NAKED reading” photographic exhibition in a Shanghai bookstore has received a mixed reception from book lovers.

The show at the Popular Bookmall Fuzhou Road branch features 10 pictures of naked young women reading or browsing shelves in bookstores, with strategically placed books to spare any blushes.

This show of bookish nudity is intended to spread the idea that “intellectual elements, instead of material, are the essence of life,” claim management.

“It’s a kind of innovation, as we want to bring something fun and new into traditional bookstores,” said Dong Chenxu, assistant manager of Popular Bookmall.

The collection of mostly modest-sized prints opened yesterday and takes up half of a wall at the store.

“We expected it to be contentious and have been conservative in choosing the pictures,” said Dong.

“To us, this is just a new way to send a message to book lovers, and we’re happy to explain it to the public.”

Dong said the pictures aim to convey the idea that a material lifestyle is like clothes — both can be taken off and discarded.

And without material distractions, people can still enjoy the pleasures of an intellectual life — such as reading.

However, some customers and staff at the store yesterday were not convinced that naked bookworms are the best way to promote an intellectual life.

“Personally, I think it’s improper,” said customer Liu Jun.  “Aristotle said art should not be too elegant, neither vulgar. To me, these pictures are the latter.”

One member of staff thought the idea seemed a bit obscure and that seniors might be offended.

“I wouldn’t get the idea about the pictures without explanations,” said the worker at the bookstore’s cafe.

“And seniors might be uncomfortable with them.”

Others were less bothered.

A young woman, surnamed Zhu, sitting in the bookstore’s cafe reading, hadn’t even noticed the pictures.

“I’ve got no problem with them,” she said. “ I know there are artistic activities like this abroad. In any case, they’re not too revealing.”

Dong said the pictures were taken in the company’s headquarters in Nanjing in Jiangsu Province

The ones on show at the Fuzhou Road branch are part of a series. The current pictures are set to be displayed for a month, and may be rotated with other pictures on other themes.

The “naked reading” concept originated in the United States where a society called the “Outdoor Co-Ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society” organizes an annual action art event called  “Making Reading Sexy.”

Popular Bookmall has three branches in Shanghai.

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