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. My first book, Van Gogh on Demand: China and the Readymade (University of Chicago Press 2014, Joseph Levenson Book Prize 2015), is a study of Dafen village in China, the world’s largest production center for oil-on-canvas painting. The book is an ethnography of the encounters between artisanal painters and global conceptual artists. A forthcoming book, The Many Names of Anonymity, studies the nameless and "nameful" portraitists of Guangzhou (Canton), in the 18th and early 19th centuries when the city served as the sole port of trade between China and Europe.
With Mary Ann O’Donnell and Jonathan Bach, I co-edited Learning from Shenzhen: China’s Post-Mao Experiment from Special Zone to Model City (UChicago Press 2017). With Jing Wang, I co-edited a special issue of positions: asia critique on visual culture and digital dissent (CELJ 2015 Best Special Issue Award). Since 2015, with Amy Adler, Peter Karol, and Martha Buskirk, I have organized several workshops on art and law, primarily thinking beyond copyright. I have published on Smallness in Hong Kong Art, on forgery in the Library, short stories in response to Arne de Boever’s Against Aesthetic Exceptionalism, and essays on the Chinese-Canadian painter Matthew Wong. Currently I am interested in women forgers, botanical illustrations, and unfinished encyclopedias. I sometimes inhabit the persona of fictional editors, and am collecting their work in a book of conjectural histories, titled Typical Artists: Chinese Biographies of Western Geniuses.
I teach undergraduate courses on visual culture, visual rhetoric, and interpretation, including classes on the Theory of the Copy, Rhetoric of the Image, Archives and Bureaucracies, and Poetry and Speculative Fiction. I teach graduate seminars that investigate the methodological intersections of Art and Ethnography, Art and Law, Theory and Practice, History of Art and History of Science. I especially welcome graduate students who want to work with me on the art, visual culture, and urbanism of Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, the many Chinese diasporas, the post-socialist international, or other contexts of overlapping imperialisms.
As an undergraduate, I was an interdisciplinary Senior Fellow of Dartmouth College where I wrote my thesis on Public Space and Public Protest in postcolonial Hong Kong. I obtained my Master’s of Science from the History, Theory and Criticism of Architecture and Art program at MIT where I wrote my thesis on Product Placement and the Hollywood Film. I then worked in the curatorial department of the Art of Europe at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and directed the curatorial program of a non-profit, all-volunteer, alternative and new media exhibition space in Cambridge, MA, before obtaining my PhD at the History, Theory and Criticism of Architecture and Art program at MIT. Prior to joining Berkeley in 2013, I was a Junior Fellow of the Harvard Society of Fellows
Education: PhD (History, Theory, and Criticism), MIT
Modern and Contemporary Art
Art and Law