Current Projects

Visitors to the Beijing Urban Planning Museum, 2007.

Experimental Beijing: Contemporary Art Worlds in China’s Capital

This book project examines the social role of visual art and competing ideas of aesthetic, cultural, and market value in reform-era China, with a particular focus on how gender shapes Chinese contemporary art worlds. It is an ethnography situated at the visual culture intersection of anthropology, art history, and gender studies, so that art world social relations, visual images, and gender politics all figure centrally in the analysis. The chapters focus on several sites of inquiry: the mixed legacies of anticolonial and socialist art practices in Chinese art education; encounters between Chinese artists and Western arts professionals; the intersection of art with transnational urban planning in the capital city; and the visual representation and interpretation of Chinese femininities and masculinities. As a companion to the book, I am developing an interactive website that will visually map my argument about the spatial, temporal, and gendered dimensions of art worldings, which will provide readers with expanded access to multimedia materials related to my research, including narrated slideshows with bilingual Chinese and English audio and documentary video clips.

New Geographies of Feminist Art

Sonal Khullar, Assistant Professor of Art History, and I have begun formulating a joint research agenda that begins with the question of what a global feminist art history would look like if constructed through multidirectional citation. For example, what if we were to trace the complex and contingent histories of South-South connections instead of folding nonwestern artists and practices into a preexisting Western narrative, a common if flawed strategy of institutionalized multiculturalism in the United States? If we ground our investigations of feminist art in metropolitan centers located outside the West like Mumbai and Shanghai, what other trajectories, networks, and worlds emerge?

To explore these questions, we are organizing an international conference to be held at the University of Washington in November 2012. New Geographies of Feminist Art: China, Asia, and the World will be devoted the often-unacknowledged influences of women on art practice in China and the circulation of feminist aesthetic strategies throughout Asia. Taking gender as a central form of power in the representational politics of contemporary art, the conference will stage an interdisciplinary conversation among art historians, anthropologists, historians, and Asian and cultural studies scholars, as well as artists and curators. It will include presentations on the visual arts in the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan, Singapore, India, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam, in order to understand the significance of feminist practices in national and transnational contexts. Timed to coincide with Elles, a major exhibition of feminist art to be hosted by the Seattle Art Museum, the conference will  provide a unique opportunity for scholars with diverse regional and disciplinary expertise to explore how feminist art from Asia rewrites both contemporary nation-based art histories and global feminist art history.

The Practice of Culture in a Digital Age

Jentery Sayers, Assistant Professor of English, University of Victoria, and I are collaborating to co-edit a volume, the idea for which emerged from the Cultural Research and Digital Collections workshop we facilitated in Fall 2010. In both academia and the broader realm of public humanities, there is an increasing emphasis on the use of digital technologies in archiving, curating, and publishing initiatives. Projects that take advantage of the affordances of media-rich and open-source web environments suggest new modes of inquiry, knowledge production, and dissemination for scholars, public institutions, and community organizations. Such projects also tend to involve new forms of collaboration among participants with different kinds of expertise in cultural research, public outreach, social justice activism, design, writing, information science, and computing. But—in practice—how do scholars, collectives, and institutions actually build the collaborations necessary for realizing critical and compelling digital platforms to support and broaden their work? How do practitioners grounded in cultural work and research explore and adapt technology to meet their needs, especially in a time of diminishing budgets? How do digital interfaces challenge and change their usual processes, and how do their experiments alter conventional assumptions about technologies? Although digital media’s revolutionary potential is a commonplace claim in both scholarly and popular circles, there are few publications that detail the emerging, behind-the-screen questions, struggles, and practices involved in cultural projects with a digital life. The Practice of Culture in a Digital Age brings together essays by and interviews with scholars, researchers, activists, archivists, artists, and curators who have developed new models of scholarly communication, often from the ground up.