PhD (History & Theory of Art), MIT
Labor and Creativity
My research is concerned with the history and present of artistic authorship, with a focus on interactions between China and the West. My theoretical interests revolve around the critical distinctions of high and low, true and fake, art and commodity, originality and imitation, and, conceptual and manual labor, and thus my work focuses on objects and practices at the boundary of these categories. I have written on product placement in the Hollywood film industry, popular culture and public space in postcolonial Hong Kong, performance art and consumer rights activism in 1990s Beijing, and American trademark law and experience design. More recently, my work has focused on image-making practices at the heart of modern and contemporary encounters between China and the West.
My first book, Van Gogh On Demand: China and the Readymade
(forthcoming Jan 2014), brings ethnographic and art historical approaches together in a study of the world's largest production center for oil-on-canvas painting in Dafen village, China, and explores the postmodernist valorization of appropriation and creativity in contemporary propaganda and conceptual art. I am currently writing a second book, on export painting in the period of world maritime trade centered in Guangzhou (Canton) from 1760 to 1842. This book will explore the little known connections between the work of anonymous Canton painters and the practices of natural history, portraiture, photography, tea production, Gilbert Stuart, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, costumbrismo
, and bobblehead dolls. I am also coediting a special issue of positions
on visual culture and digital dissent, and another multidisciplinary volume on the urban history and anthropology of Shenzhen. At present, I am fascinated by architectural copies, the division of labor in genomics research, the Chinese (or American) Dream, and the limits of irony.
In Fall 2013, I am teaching Theory of the Copy (Rhetoric 189/Art History 190F), an upper division course on fakes, forgeries, imitations, and appropriations. In Spring 2014, I will be teaching an undergraduate lecture on China in the Western Imagination (Rhetoric 119/Rhetorical Places), and a graduate seminar on the Factory: before Marx and after Warhol (Rhetoric 250/Rhetoric of the Image).
Prior to joining the Rhetoric department, I was a junior fellow of the Society of Fellows at Harvard University, and obtained my PhD from the History, Theory and Criticism program in the School of Architecture and Planning at MIT.
Van Gogh On Demand: China and the Readymade
(University of Chicago Press, forthcoming Jan 2014)
"The Panda Man and the Anti-Counterfeiting Hero: Art, Activism, and Appropriation in Contemporary China," Journal of Visual Culture
"Ambience as Commodity: Experience Design and the Legal Expansion of 'Trade Dress,'" Future Anterior (May 2012)
"The Unskilled Migrant," Third Text Asia (Spring 2010)
"Framed Authors: Photography and Conceptual Art From Dafen Village," Yishu: Journal of Chinese Contemporary Art (July 2008)
Reconsidering the 2006 MIT Visualizing Cultures Controversy, coedited with Jing Wang, in press, 2015.
Learning from Shenzhen: China's Post-Mao Experiment from Special Zone to Urban Model, coedited with Mary Ann O'Donnell and Jonathan Bach, in progress.
"Portability," Thresholds (Fall 2007)
"New Work: Liu Ding," Art World (June/July 2009)
"Die Geschichte von Big Beard" and "Die Geschichte von Peng Bide," Kinaland, ed. Gesine Danckwart, trans. Anja Goette (Blumenbar Verlag 2009)
"Xiao Xiong: Enter and Exit," Thresholds 34 (Fall 2007)
"The Catalog by Dung Kai-Cheung," exh. cat. Branded and On Display (Krannert Art Museum 2006)
"The Problem Solvers/Cine va Rezolva Problemele?," OMaGiu, ed. and trans. Mihnea Mircan (Fall 2006)
2012 William F. Milton Fund Research Grant
2010 ACLS Mellon Dissertation Completion Fellowship
2009 SSRC International Dissertation Research Fellowship
2008 CLIR Mellon Dissertation Fellowship in the Humanities in Original Sources
2006 SSRC Pre-Dissertation Fellowship for International Collaboration
2005 MIT Presidential Fellowship
2002 MIT Thesis Award