Ellen Larson, Nov 3

We invite you to join us at Ellen Larson’s VMPEA talk this Thursday (Nov 3), from 5-7pm. The talk will be hybrid, at CWAC 152 and livestreamed. We hope to see many of you there!


Ellen Larson

CAEA Postdoctoral Instructor of Art History, UChicago

who will present the paper

“Spectral Ecologies: Post-Industrial Urban Aesthetics in Northeast China”

on Thursday*, November 3, 2022

from 5:00 – 7:00 pm CST* in CWAC 152.

Register here if you wish to join us remotely.

*Please note the unusual date and time



Since the turn of the 21st century, multimedia artists and filmmakers from China have employed the moving image as a tool to capture temporalities shaped by urban-industrial decline in northeast China. A counterpoint to massive economic prosperity within the Pearl River Delta, fueled by investments in new technologies and industries, this region, termed Dongbei in Chinese, has witnessed the dismantling of socialized production, along with the transformation of once thriving factory complexes into largely abandoned ghostly spaces. In this paper “Spectral Ecologies: Post-Industrial Urban Aesthetics in Northeast China” artists Hao Jingban, Wang Bing, and Wang Mowen reference the ghosts of cultural memory through distinctive visual presentations of bygone monumentalities from China’s socialist past, including grand memorials to Chairman Mao and other iconic forms of early PRC-era infrastructure, both physical and ideological. I propose that these artists incorporate what writer and critic Chris Berry has referred to as “on-the-spot realism,” (jishizhuyi) a term which incorporates site-specific observational cinematic realism to document occurrences within artists’ everyday surroundings. “Spectral Ecologies” contemplates how particularities within bygone centers of industrial-driven labor have influenced time-based works over the past two decades. Collectively, Hao Jingban, Wang Bing, and Wang Mowen activate the moving image as both archive and research method. They gesture towards geo-agencies somewhere in between the past and the future, the living and the non-living. Most significantly, they document the ruined decay of northeast factory zones, summoning the metaphorical ghosts of this regions’ industrial history.

Wang Mowen, Trinity, 2019, single-channel video, 16 mins., 9 secs.



Ellen Larson is a Center for the Art of East Asia (CAEA) Postdoctoral Instructor in conjunction with the Department of Art History. Her research underscores the nature of temporalities as represented in moving image art made primarily in Mainland China. She is particularly interested in revealing how contemporary artists capture facets of accelerated time all the while living in a culture where physical environments and social connections are becoming increasingly obsolete due to major investments in robotics, AI technologies, online communication platforms, and virtual monetary exchange applications. Ellen’s research is also informed by urban studies, Asian futurisms, memory studies, and cyberfeminism studies. Her methodological approach to the study of art history incorporates curation and design as critical forms of applied practice. Before joining UChicago, she earned her PhD in art history from the University of Pittsburgh. Her doctoral dissertation, “On Time: Contemporary Chinese Video Art from China,” focused on emerging video and new media art since the turn of the new millennium. Her research has been supported by the American Council of Learned Societies, the Henry Luce Foundation, and the Dunhuang Foundation. She also holds a master’s degree in modern Chinese history from Minzu University of China (Beijing), where she completed all coursework in Chinese.


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