Ranxu Yin, June 1

Speaker: Ranxu Yin (visiting graduate student)

“Re-Presencing the Past? Rethinking the Exhibition History Behind the Object’s Lives and Human’s Experimental Interactions in Premodern China”

Wednesday, June 1st 2022

4:45 – 6:45 pm CT, Hybrid event (In-person at CWAC 152 + livestream via Zoom)

※online: Please use this link to register for the zoom meeting. password: museum61

※For this event, we will be having dinner after the talk. For those who would like to join this gathering after the event, please complete this form by Sunday (May, 29th) 11:59 p.m. so that we can order enough food for everyone.

These photographs serve as examples of the different lives of objects in museums and in the places where they have been rediscovered. 20221968


 This presentation will start with the social lives of objects and the corresponding human experiences with them, raising the possibility of incorporating some pre-modern ritual experiences into the history of exhibitions. For example, collective human experiences in tombs and temples (or caves) to a great extent share the same “media system” with the contemporary exhibitions, including objects, spaces, information, and emotions. In all three spaces, one finds a similar touching relationship between humans and the mediums described as “contemporary inter-built relationship,” opposite to the “temporary encounter relationship.” In this light, collective human experiences with “exhibitionary spaces” are closely connected across time and space. I propose this connection to be one of the responses to the issue of “re-presencing the past” in media archaeology, prompting us to reconsider or redefine “exhibitions” as a concept and space for staging the human experiences.

 I will use the ritual processes in the tombs and human religious experiences in the temples/caves,focusing on the display of objects and the structures of corridors, as the primary cases of analysis for this presentation.


Ranxu Yin is currently a visiting graduate student in the Department of Art History, the University of Chicago. She is a PhD student in the School of Humanities at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in China, where she majored in art museology. Ranxu studied visual culture and received her MA from CAFA. She is interested in the theories and methods that art history studies absorb and transform from media research of cultural studies. Her research mainly deals with the interactions between art history studies and the history of museum and exhibition.

Yan Jin, May 18

Speaker: Yan Jin (Ph.D. student, University of Chicago)

“From Paper to Pottery: Imperial Yang for the Production of Dayazhai Ceramic Wares in Nineteenth-Century China”

Wednesday, May 18th, 2022

4:45 – 6:45 pm CT. Hybrid event (In-person at CWAC 152 + livestream via Zoom)

※ Please use this link to register for the zoom meeting. password: dyz518

※For this particular event, we will be having dinner after the talk. For those who would like to join this gathering after the event, please complete this form by Sunday (May, 15th) 11:59 p.m. so that we can place enough food for everyone. For your information, we are planning to order Italian cuisine.

Dayazhai Yang no. 4, 1873-74. Ink and color on paper, 45.4 x 70cm. The Palace Museum, Beijing.


At the imperial court of Qing China (1644-1911), how exactly was it ensured that the things seen and used by the emperor were made according to the imperial order and taste? Based on the myriad of records of Neiwufu 內務府 (Imperial Household Department), a general summary of the mechanism can be made: After the emperor had given out an order to have a thing—ranging from a small bowl to attires and to an entire architecture complex—made, a yang 樣 that visually delineates the thing would first be presented to the emperor by court officials or artisans working at the Imperial Household Department. The emperor would make comments and changes based on the yang and give his approval, according to which the final thing could then be produced. This process could go back and forth multiple times, during which it was the yang that was amended until it was able to meet the emperor’s expectation. But what is this thing called “yang?” By definition, the character itself may be translated as “shape/appearance,” “sample,” “pattern,” or “model.” However, the answer to this question is actually not so much straightforward and is the focus of this presentation.

In particular, this presentation looks closely at one set of such yang created in 1873-74, the last years of Emperor Tongzhi 同治’s reign (r. 1862-1874), for the production of a group of ceramic wares for Empress Dowager Cixi 慈禧 (1835-1908), now commonly referred to as Dayazhai 大雅齋 (Studio of Utmost Refinement) wares. Departing from previous scholarship on the Dayazhai ensemble, which pay more attention to the wares themselves rather than the yang and focus on the pictorial themes and stylistic features of these wares, this presentation instead aims to highlight the active role yang played in the overall commission and production process. By probing into the Dayazhai yang’s visual schemes, its maker and audiences, and the translation from yang to ceramics, I aim to demonstrate that rather than being merely a secondary object made for the creation of something final, the Dayazhai ceramic yang occupied a hierarchical position higher than the actual wares in both practical and conceptual terms because of its centrality in the shaping and delivery of Cixi’s ideals for imperial ceramics.


Yan Jin is a PhD student in the Department of Art History at the University of Chicago, studying visual and material culture of late imperial China. Her research interests include cross-regional exchanges, negotiation between global and local artistic traditions, and issues of materiality and intermediality. Yan received her BA in Art History from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2018) and her MA from the University of Chicago (2019) with a thesis on the production and display of glass mirror table screens at Emperor Qianlong’s court.

Xu Jin, May 6

Speaker: Xu Jin ( Assistant Professor of Art History and Asian Studies, Vassar College)

“Comparing Acts, Matching Images: Filial Sons and Reclusive Sages on the Funerary Couch of a Sogdian Immigrant in 6th-Century China”

May 6th, 2022 (Friday)

4:30 – 6:30 pm CT. Hybrid (In-person at CWAC 152 + livestream via Zoom)

※ Please use this link to register for the zoom meeting if you would like to attend remotely. password: sogdian56

(Liu Ling, One of the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove, Di Yu Couch. Eastern Wei Dynasty. Stone couch from Anyang, Henan Province. Shenzhen Museum)


Filial sons and reclusive sages (Seven Worthies of the Bamboo Grove and Rong Qiqi) were among the most esteemed figural subjects in Chinese art. They also appear on the stone funerary couch of Di Yu 翟育 (?-538), a Sogdian diplomat who immigrated to North China in the early sixth century. The Di Yu couch is the earliest known of over ten sarcophagi made for Sogdian leaders active in sixth-century China. This talk demonstrates how the quintessential Chinese subjects were selectively adopted and meticulously modified to address the Sogdian family’s life experiences. Moreover, I argue that Sogdian immigrants employed the images of reclusive sages to reconcile their Central Asian origin with the art and culture of native Chinese elites.


Xu Jin is an Assistant Professor of Art History and Asian studies at Vassar College. He received his PhD in art history at the University of Chicago. His research has been focusing on religious and cultural exchanges on the Silk Road as reflected in Chinese art during the 6th and 7th centuries. His publications appear in the Burlington Magazine, the Journal of Asian Studies, and Journal of National Museum of China. Currently he is writing a book manuscript titled “Beyond Boundaries: Sogdian Sarcophagi and the Art of An Immigrant Community in 6th Century China”.

Yan Yang, April 20

The recording of this event could be found HERE

Speaker: Yan Yang 

(Assistant Professor of Art History, Music and Art, Borough of Manhattan Community College CUNY)

“Tracing the Formation of a National Style: Yamato-e from World Fairs to Wartimes”

Discussant: Minori Egashira (PhD Candidate, Art History, UChicago)

April 20th, 2022 (Wednesday), 4:45 – 6:45 pm CT, Remotely via Zoom 

Please use this link to register for the zoom meeting. The password to this zoom session is “yamatoe

Tale of Genji Picture Scroll, Sekiya Chapter. 12th century. Tokugawa Art Museum

Abstract: How does a national style come into existence? Does it form through a consensus by a panel of experts or in some other way? Although yamato-e has been characterized as a national style of Japanese art since the 1930s by Japanese art historians, what led to this codification? This presentation examines primary sources produced before the 1930s, from government-sponsored exhibitions intended to teach a foreign audience about Japanese culture at World Fairs, to Japanese texts about surviving works of art that are celebrated as extant examples of yamato-e such as the Tale of Genji Picture Scrolls, in order to trace the formation of yamato-e as the pictorial embodiment of the Japanese national style.


Yan Yang received her B.A and Ph.D degrees from Yale University. After teaching at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and at Kyushu University in Japan, she is currently at Borough of Manhattan Community College, City University of New York. Her primary field of interest in Japanese art historiography and epistemology. She has published on the 20th-century codification of the concept of Japanese art known as yamato-e. This presentation is an extension of a larger project that explores the formation of yamato-e before the 20th century.

Minori Egashira is a PhD candidate studying under Dr. Chelsea Foxwell at The University of Chicago. Her research focuses on Meiji-period (1868–1912) sculpture, and Japan’s artistic interactions with the world in modern and contemporary times. Her broader interests include East Asian sculptural art and other three-dimensional objects, World Fairs, and investigating non-orthodox narratives of Japanese art history.

Hang Wu, April 15

Speaker: Hang Wu (PhD Student, Department of Cinema and Media Studies/ Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations)

“Information Processing: On Asian Cyberscapes in the Cyberpunk New Wave”

Friday, April 15th, 2022

5:10 – 7:10 pm CT, Hybrid (In-person at CWAC 152 + livestream via Zoom)

**This event is co-sponsored with the Digital Media Workshop**

*Please use this link to register for the zoom meeting. The password to this zoom session is “cyber0415.”

Abstract: The new wave of cyberpunk animation, cinema, short video, and games that proliferated after the 2010s encourages us to reconsider the relationship between the cyberscapes rendered in cyberpunk media and the cityscapes of Asia. Since the release of a series of cyberpunk films and TV animation in the 1980s, scholars have developed the concept of “techno-orientalism” to critique the imagination of Asian cityscapes in the cyberized future. However, this approach views “Asia” only in terms of a racialized imagination external to it. Aiming to go beyond the East-West dichotomy that is implicit in the techno-orientalism critique of cyberpunk media, I examine the relationship between the cyberpunk cyberscape and the Asian cityscape through the lens of information processing. In particular, I look at the staging of information interfaces (hologram projections and screens on high-rise buildings) and lighting effects (neon lights and LED lighting) in cyberpunk media that suggest the city processes information as a medium. Blending cinema & media studies and critical area studies, I argue that cyberpunk media draws to the fore the city in its information processing role and intensifies our perceptions of it as a global space located in Asia. Information processing serves as a key concept in this paper for thinking about (1) media infrastructures and aesthetics that afford an immersive viewing experience in the age of the digital; and (2) the emergent and open futures that the Asian cyberscapes evoke.

Hang Wu (She/They) is pursuing the joint Ph.D. degree in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies and the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. Their research mainly focuses on how the more-than-human may help expand the understanding of media and sovereignty in the context of East Asia, especially China and Japan. Their work has appeared in journals and edited volumes such as Animation: an interdisciplinary journal and Sound Communities in the Asia Pacific.

VMPEA Spring 2022 Schedule

The Visual and Material Perspectives on East Asia (VMPEA) workshop is pleased to announce the Spring 2022 schedule. Events will be held on Wednesdays from 4:45 to 6:45 pm CT at CWAC 152 unless noted otherwise (there will be two Friday sessions this quarter). For the online event or those who would like to join us remotely, we will send out the registration links prior to the events.


April 15 (Friday)

 Wu Hang, PhD Student, Department of Cinema and Media Studies

“Information Processing: On Asian Cyberscapes in the Cyberpunk New Wave”

*Co-Sponsored with the Digital Media Workshop*


April 20 

Yan Yang, Assistant Professor of Art History, Music and Art, Borough of Manhattan Community College CUNY

“Tracing the Formation of a National Style: Yamato-e from World Fairs to Wartimes”

Discussant: Minori Egashira, PhD Candidate, Department of Art History

[This event is online]


May 6 (Friday) 

Xu Jin, Assistant Professor of Art History and Asian Studies, Vassar College

“Comparing Acts, Matching Images: Filial Sons and Reclusive Sages on the Funerary Couch of a Sogdian Immigrant in 6th-Century China”

Discussant: TBA


May 18 

Jin Yan, PhD Student, Department of Art History

“From Paper to Pottery: Imperial Yang for the Production of Dayazhai Ceramic Wares in Nineteenth-century China” 


June 1

Ranxu Yin, Visiting Graduate Student, Department of Art History; Ph.D Candidate, Central Academy of Fine Arts

“Exhibitions as Forms of Human Interaction: From a Perspective of the ‘Structures’ of Spaces”

Discussant: TBA

Valentina Boretti, March 2

Speaker: Valentina Boretti (Research Associate, SOAS University of London)

“New Wine in Old Bottles?: The Re-tagging of Playthings in Twentieth-century China”

Discussant: Xi Zhang (PhD Candidate, University of Chicago)

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2022

4:45 – 6:45 pm CST, Remotely via Zoom 

Please use this link to register for the zoom meeting. The password to this zoom session is “toys0302.”

Qimeng huabao 啟蒙畫報 1.2 (1903)


In twentieth-century China, toys became signs and agents of child and adult improvement, or lack thereof. Pacing-horse lamps like the one shown above, for instance, could equally serve to introduce children to science and patriotism; or to demonstrate Chinese inanity in having used scientific principles to produce a mere toy; or instead to reveal Chinese resourcefulness and precocious command of science. The significance of toys was, in turn, a consequence of the premium importance assigned to youths.

Advocating the cultivation of vigorous subjects, as opposed to the lethargic inadequacy that allegedly marked Chinese personhood, reformers and cultural brokers disseminated from the late nineteenth century a discourse of childrearing and education that reframed playthings as key formative tools. For ‘new’ children, they posited, would be shaped only by means of educational methods that seconded their peculiarities, which ‘tradition’ supposedly had ignored. Having construed the young as ‘instinctively’ play-loving and mobile, this discourse then identified toys as tools for providing imperceptible (hence more effectual) moral, intellectual, aesthetic, and physical instruction to children as they played. Yet, to achieve this goal, toys ought to be ‘appropriate’, namely educational, scientific, attractive, safe, ideally movable and novel.

Drawing on textual, visual and material sources dating from the 1900s to the 1960s, my talk will explore these discursive labels across political regimes: for – with moderate variations – the discourse of toys seamlessly transitioned from the Republican to the Maoist era, and most of the playthings that had raised citizens were found apt to raise successors. The talk will, moreover, note that whilst branding toys as indicative of advancement or backwardness, scientific, or conducive to political engagement was quite new, the objects these tags were appended to were often age-old. Old-ish bottles, in sum, were made to contain new-ish wine.


Valentina Boretti is Research Associate in the Department of History, SOAS University of London. She works on the cultural history of modern China, and has published on gender, material culture and childhood. Her research, funded among others by the British Academy, takes toys as a lens to explore child and adult citizen-building, mobilisation, and continuities or changes across regimes in twentieth-century China.

Xi Zhang has defended her dissertation entitled The City’s Pleasures: Urban and Visual Culture of Garden Spaces in Shanghai, 1850s-1930s and will receive her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in March 2022. She is currently teaching at the School of Art Institute of Chicago as a lecturer. Her research and teaching focus on the history of modern Chinese art and architecture, with a particular interest in the interplay of spatial practices and visual culture within transcultural contexts from the eighteenth to twentieth centuries.

Meng Zhao, February 23

Meng Zhao (Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Art History)

“Theatrical Beholding: Visualizing Gaze in the Southern Song Court Milieu (1127-1279)” 

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2022 [Postponed]

4:45 – 6:45 pm CT,  Remotely via Zoom

Please use this link to register for the zoom meeting. The password to this zoom session is “103291



Ma Yuan 馬遠 (1160-1225), detail of “Spring Gazing from the High Terrace,” in Landscape Album Paired with Imperial Poetic Inscriptions 宋帝命题册, ca. 1194-1224. Set of ten pairs of album leaves; ink, color and gold on silk, 26.6×27.3 cm; anonymous collection, New York.


By the middle of the twelfth century, a narrowly focused vision characterized the Southern Song (1127-1279) landscape art. Instead of the timeless aspect of nature conveyed in earlier landscape paintings, an introspective sensibility is marked by the presence of a quietly contemplating figure within the intimate format of square album leaves and circular fan paintings. The aim of this chapter is to propose the art-historical conventions, aesthetic conditions, and socio-historical forces in relation to the Southern Song court milieu that allowed and shaped this dominant mode of visualizing gaze in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. A specific group of paintings featuring a prominent gazing figure suggests a mode of what I call an “imperial gaze” and is foregrounded as a pivot around which an inclusive, plural understanding of these scenes is constructed. The key question is to what extent the Southern Song court art could have been shaped by a notion of “spectacle” that was founded not only on the representation of a beholding subject, but also on the necessity of envisioning the painting plane as a theatrical stage. The construction of this sort of theatrical spaces, in both a physical and mental sense, and the experience of situating oneself as beholder, were widely observed in various forms of imperial entertainments of the period.

Meng Zhao is a PhD candidate studying Chinese art with focuses on painting practices of the middle period (ca. 800-1400). Her doctoral dissertation, Roaming, Gazing, and Listening: Human Presence and Sensory Impression in Song Landscape Art (960-1279), investigates the related ways in which major landscapists from the end of the eleventh to the thirteenth century turned their attention to the portrayal of human presence and responded in various efforts to the psychosomatic dimension of multi-layered figure-landscape relationships. She is also interested in pictorializations of the medieval conception of female beauty and its relation to the mingling of senses, and the representation of dreams and visions in late imperial China. This year, her research is funded with a Chinese Studies Dissertation Fellowship from the Center for East Asian Studies at UChicago.

VMPEA Winter 2022 Schedule

Dear VMPEA community,

The Visual and Material Perspectives on East Asia (VMPEA) workshop is pleased to announce its Winter 2022 schedule. Currently, we are planning to have two online events, and two in-person hybrid events for this quarter. All the sessions will be held on Wednesdays from 4:45 to 6:45 pm CT unless noted. The in-person events will meet in CWAC 152; For the online events or those who would like to join us remotely, we will send out the registration links prior to the events. Meanwhile, the format is subjected to changes depending on the COVID situation and the regulations of the university.

We look forward to seeing you soon!




January 12 

Stephanie Lee, Ph.D student, Department of Art History, Northwestern University

“The Social Lives of Picture Postcards”

Discussant: Kaeun Park, Ph.D student, Asian Languages and Cultures, University of Michigan


February 23

Meng Zhao, Ph.D Candidate, Department of Art History, UChicago

“Theatrical Beholding: Visualizing Gaze in the Southern Song Court Milieu (1127-1279)”

Discussant: TBA

(in-person hybrid)

March 2 

Valentina Boretti, Research Associate, Department of History, SOAS

“New Wine in Old Bottles? The Re-tagging of Playthings in Twentieth-Century China”

Discussant: Zhang Xi, Ph.D Candidate, Department of Art History, UChicago


March 16 

Ma Boyao, Visiting Graduate Student, UChicago/ Ph.D student, Archeology Department, Sichuan University

“The Architectural Space and Architectural Image of a 5th-century Tomb in Xi’an”

 Discussant: Li Jiang, Ph.D Student, Department of Art History, UChicago

(in-person hybrid)

*The VMPEA’s in-person events are open to all invitees who are compliant with UChicago vaccination requirements and, because of ongoing health risks, particularly to the unvaccinated, participants are expected to adopt the risk mitigation measures (masking and social distancing, etc.) appropriate to their vaccination status as advised by public health officials or to their individual vulnerabilities as advised by a medical professional. Public convening may not be safe for all and carries a risk for contracting COVID-19, particularly for those unvaccinated. Participants will not know the vaccination status of others and should follow appropriate risk mitigation measures.

Toby Wu, December 3

 Arts and Politics of East Asia (APEA) & Visual and Material Perspectives on East Asia (VMPEA)

★ Co-Sponsored Workshop ★

Toby Wu (MAPH)

“Reconstituting the Japanese Housewife: Idemitsu Mako’s Charged Televisual Fields in Kiyoko’s Situation (1989)”

Discussant: Thomas Lamarre (Professor in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago)

Friday, December 3, 2021

3:00 – 5:00 pm CT, Remotely via Zoom [note the different time and the online format]

(Please use this link to register for the zoom meeting.)

Please find the pre-circulated paper for this Friday’s VMPEA-APEA joint event HERE with the password: idemitsu. Please do not circulate the paper without permission. (Note: Please enter the password twice).


Subverting the housewife melodrama form, Idemitsu Mako’s shufu (housewife) series (1972-1989) deftly manifests the radical potential of a domestic television set to reconfigure the shufu’s subconscious. Placidly observing the austere environment of the household, Idemitsu’s televisual videos frame her shufu protagonists and the television set within the seemingly un-intruded domestic space, allowing for their repressed subconscious to emerge through the television’s charged field.

This paper provides a centripetal tracking (Joselit, After Art) of Kiyoko’s Situation (1989), Idemitsu’s penultimate televisual video work, in which Kiyoko (the protagonist) is compelled by the television set to confront the trauma of being a shufu. Through the unravelling of her past and psyche (exemplified in the television set and Kiyoko concurrently), we witness how the television set reconstitutes Kiyoko’s subjecthood, no longer just a conduit for mediation or transmission.

This paper considers the viability of extant Euro-American video art narratives to account for and explicate Idemitsu’s practice, consulting Thomas Lamarre’s notion of the technosocial charged field to expand upon the work’s medium and socio-political context. Specifically, the paper suggests why it is crucial to consider both media and cultural specificity in Idemitsu’s form of media art, reconciling how a media ecology might consider the discrete objecthood of domestic television sets. The paper proposes that Idemitsu’s televisual videos formulate a media art practice that envisages the media effects of television, while concurrently activating her feminist ideology.

Idemitsu Mako, Kiyoko’s Situation, 1989, video, color, sound, 24:40 min, (still of) 17:10.

Toby Wu is a Master’s candidate at the University of Chicago reading Art History and Media Studies. He is interested in the emergence of time based media practices in the Global Contemporary, specifically through Transpacific exchanges between Japan, Southeast Asia, and the United States of America. His Master’s thesis examined Idemitsu Mako’s techno-social reconstitution of the Japanese housewife’s subjecthood through the media effects of television. Toby is an inaugural (2021) Asia Art Archive in America & PoNJA GenKon fellow and the Graduate Curatorial Intern for Transpacific Art Histories at The Smart Museum. He has previously worked with KADIST Art Foundation (San Francisco), National Gallery Singapore and Museum of Contemporary Art and Design (Manila).

Thomas Lamarre is a scholar of media, cinema and animation, intellectual history and material culture, with projects ranging from the communication networks of 9th century Japan (Uncovering Heian Japan: An Archaeology of Sensation and Inscription, 2000), to silent cinema and the global imaginary (Shadows on the Screen: Tanizaki Jun’ichirō on Cinema and Oriental Aesthetics, 2005), animation technologies (The Anime Machine: A Media Theory of Animation, 2009) and on television infrastructures and media ecology (The Anime Ecology: A Genealogy of Television, Animation, and Game Media, 2018). Current projects include research on animation that addresses the use of animals in the formation of media networks associated with colonialism and extraterritorial empire, and the consequent politics of animism and speciesism. His work as a translator includes major works from Japanese and French: Kawamata Chiaki’s novel Death Sentences (University of Minnesota, 2012); Muriel Combes’s Gilbert Simondon and the Philosophy of the Transindividual (MIT, 2012); and David Lapoujade’s William James: Pragmatism and Empiricsm (Duke University Press, 2019). He has also edited volumes on cinema and animation, on the impact of modernity in East Asia, on pre-emptive war, and formerly, as Associate Editor of Mechademia: An Annual Forum for Anime, Manga, and the Fan Arts, a number of volumes on manga, anime, and fan cultures. He is co-editor with Takayuki Tatsumi of a book series with the University of Minnesota Press entitled “Parallel Futures,” which centers on Japanese speculative fiction. Current editorial work includes a co-edited volume on Chinese animation with Daisy Yan Du and a co-edited volume on Digital Animalities with Jody Berland. He previously taught in East Asian Studies and Communications Studies at McGill University. As James McGill Professor Emeritus of Japanese Media Studies at McGill University, he continues to work with the Moving Image Research Laboratory, funded by the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, and partnered by local research initiatives such as Immediations, Hexagram, and Artemis.