Aurelia Campbell, Oct 7

Aurelia Campbell (Associate Professor, Art, Art History, and Film Faculty, Boston College)

“Tibetan Stupa as Protective Force in Early Ming Burials”

Discussant: Wei-Cheng Lin (Associate Professor of Art History and the College, Department of Art History)

Wednesday, Oct 7

 4:45-6:45 pm, Zoom meeting (please find the registration link below)



This paper focuses on an unusual early Ming dynasty (1368-1644) brick tomb in Mayishan, Wangcheng County, Hunan. The tomb belongs to a woman named Zhang Miaoshou, who served as the wet nurse of Prince Gu, nineteenth son of the Ming founder, Zhu Yuanzhang. Among the numerous Buddhist artifacts unearthed from the tomb, the most intriguing is a large stone reliquary in the shape of a Tibetan-style stupa, which holds dozens of Buddhist and Daoist scriptures. What was it doing there? By connecting the stupa to a host of earlier material evidence incorporating the written word, this paper argues that the stupa and its contents ultimately served apotropaic and salvific functions. It furthermore makes a case for the significance of the Tibetan-style stupa as a symbol of protection in the post-Mongol world.

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Aurelia Campbell is Associate Professor in the Department of Art, Art History, and Film at Boston College. Her research centers on the architecture and material culture of the Yuan (1279-1368), Ming (1368-1644), and Qing (1644-1911) periods in China. Campbell’s first book, What the Emperor Built: Architecture and Empire in the Early Ming (University of Washington Press, 2020) examines the construction projects of the famous Yongle emperor to consider how imperial ideology is given form in built space. Addressing how and why his buildings were constructed, the book expands our understanding of “imperial Chinese architecture” as a building typology. Her second book, in progress, explores the relationship between Buddhism and mortuary culture in the Ming and Qing periods. The book will consider Buddhist funerary art and architecture from a large swath of society—including emperors, empresses, princes, eunuchs, monks, and aristocrats—to better understand how conceptions of the afterlife differed according to one’s position in life. The book aims to fill a gap in scholarship on Chinese tombs after the Yuan dynasty. Her research has been supported through grants and fellowships from Millard Meiss Publication Fund, James Geiss Foundation, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Asian Cultural Council, and Metropolitan Center for Far Eastern Art Studies, among others.


Wei-Cheng Lin is Associate Professor in the Department of Art History at the University of Chicago. Lin specializes in the history of Chinese art and architecture, with a focus on medieval period, and has published on both Buddhist and funeral art and architecture of medieval China. His first book, Building a Sacred Mountain: Buddhist Architecture of China’s Mount Wutai, was published in 2014 with the University of Washington Press. He has also written on topics related to traditional architecture in modern China. Lin is currently working on two book projects: Performative Architecture of China, explores architecture’s performative potential through history and the meanings enacted through such architectural performance. Necessarily Incomplete: Fragments of Chinese Artifacts investigate fragments of Chinese artifacts, as well as the cultural practices they solicited and engaged, to locate their agentic power in generating the multivalent significance of those artifacts, otherwise undetectable or overlooked.

Maki Kaneko, June 5

Maki Kaneko, PhD., Associate Professor, The Kress Foundation Department of Art History, University of Kansas

“Inter-Imperial (Bri)Collage”: Jimmy Tsutomu Mirikitani’s Visualization of Incarceration, Hiroshima and New York City

Discussant: Chelsea Foxwell, PhD., Associate Professor of Art History and the College, Department of Art History

Friday, June 5, 2020

4:30-6:30 pm (CT), Zoom meeting (please find the registration link below)

Abstract: This presentation focuses on the artist Jimmy Tsutomu Mirikitani (1920-2012) and explores how his collage-drawings pose a challenge to the normative mode of history writing. Mirikitani was born in Sacramento, California, raised in and trained as a painter in Hiroshima, Japan, and returned to the U.S. at age eighteen. During the Pacific War, Mirikitani was incarcerated and forced to renounce his U.S. citizenship. From the late 1980s, Mirikitani, without acknowledgment of his reinstated U.S. citizenship, lived and made his art on the streets of New York City to survive as well as keep his memories alive. Mirikitani’s interstitial identity as a kibei (the Japanese Americans educated in Japan) and long-term stateless person, trans-Pacific trajectories, and street life in NYC largely shaped his signature art form and practice: a mélange of Nihonga (traditionalist-style Japanese painting) and photo-collage made out of cast-off materials. These works were also created through ad-hoc collaborations with the NYC neighbors and pedestrians who provided the artist with necessary tools or labor. Through this highly entangled art form and unconventional working method, the artist made a bold claim about his legitimate position within mainstream US-Japan history as well as the post-1945 NY art community.  Given his improvised method of collaboration and interstitial identity, I propose to analyze Mirikitani’s collaged works through the two critical conceptual lenses of “bricolage” and “inter-imperiality.” This study thereby considers the radical potentials of Mirikitani’s art which invites us to reimagine the histories beyond the rigid fixities of nation-state and identitarian politics.

Jimmy Tsutomu Mirikitani, Untitled (Hiroshima), ca. 2001.

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This event is co-sponsored by the Center for East Asian Studies at the University of Chicago.


Maki Kaneko is an Associate Professor in the Kress Foundation Department of Art History at the University of Kansas, where she researches and teaches modern and contemporary Japanese visual arts and the art of Asian Americans and the Asian diaspora. Her publications include the single-authored book Mirroring the Japanese Empire: The Male Figure in Yoga Painting, 1930-1950 (Brill, 2015) and the co-edited volume “Modern & Contemporary East Asian Art,” special issue, Spencer Museum of Art The Register VIII, no. 5 (2019). She also has published the book chapter “Japanese Modern Art History in North America and the Perspective of Asian American Art Studies,” in Taniguchi Fumie Studies (Toyonaka: Ryūshidō, 2018), “War Heroes of Modern Japan: Early 1930s War Fever and the Three Brave Bombers,” in Conflicts of Interest: The Art of War in Modern Japan (St. Louis: St. Louis Art Museum, 2016), and the journal article “New Art Collectives in the Service of the War: The Formation of Art Organizations During the Asia-Pacific War, 1937-1945,” Positions: East Asia Cultures Critique 21, no. 2 (Spring 2013). Kaneko is currently working on a book-length study of and an exhibition on Jimmy Tsutomu Mirikitani and Japanese and Japanese American artists in the post-9/11 era.

Chelsea Foxwell’s scholarship ranges from the medieval through modern periods of Japanese art with special emphasis on the 19th and 20th centuries. She is the author of Making Modern Japanese-Style Painting: Kano Hōgai and the Search for Images (2015). In 2012 she co-curated the exhibition Awash in Color: French and Japanese Prints with Anne Leonard at the Smart Museum of Art. Her work focuses on Japan’s artistic interactions with the rest of East Asia and beyond, nihonga and yōga (Japanese oil painting); “export art” and the world’s fairs; practices of image circulation, exhibition, and display; and the relationship between image-making and the kabuki theater. A member of the Committee on Japanese Studies and the Center for the Art of East Asia, she is a contributor to the Digital Scrolling Paintings and the Reading Kuzushiji projects.


Boyoung Chang, May 22

Boyoung Chang, PhD., Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Art History

“Reconstructing the Nation: contemporary Korean photography since the 1990s”

Discussant: Tingting Xu, PhD candidate, Department of Art History

Friday, May 22, 2020

4:30-6:30 pm, Zoom meeting (please find the registration link below)

Abstract: This presentation discusses the photography of South Korean photographers, focusing on the medium’s relationship with the political and societal changes in and around the country that started in the late 1980s. Focusing on art photography that took various formats from documentary to the performative, encompassing the staged, portraits, and snapshots, it addresses the development of a medium that is intertwined with the transformation of Korean society. Represented with democratization and globalization, South Korea reorganized its political system and opened its doors to the world in this era. I argue that the transformation of contemporary Korean art photography is not only a reflection of this essential reconstruction of the nation’s identity but that of the medium itself, with its performative nature, mediating the process. The exploration starts from the early practices of the mid-20th century Korean photography and moves on to the thematic discussions of how contemporary photography addressed the key issues that mark the transition. When the long history of military dictatorship ended and democracy arrived in Korea, the nation reestablished its identity by declaring a break from the past, refashioning its history, and building new relationships with other countries, including North Korea. This research argues that the history of Korean photography parallels these shifts. Unlike the photographers of the past, contemporary photographers, with newly obtained freedom and various photographic languages, revisited the repressed history, reinterpreted official history, and deconstructed it according to the changed socio-political climate. As the state-led globalization transformed Korean identity into the international context, Korean photography too went through the process of challenging the preexisting notions and striving to position itself in global photography. Fully incorporating the social, political, and cultural history of Korea and the surrounding international contexts, this research takes an interdisciplinary approach in articulating the history of the nation’s photography. With an emphasis on a need to contextualize artistic practices into its society, it improves the understanding of contemporary Korea and its photographic practices.

Suntag Noh, Forgetting machines, 2005-2011


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Boyoung Chang is a postdoctoral researcher in the Center for the Art of East Asia in the  Department of Art History. She specializes in contemporary Korean photography with a particular interest in how the history of Korean photography intertwines with the nation’s dynamic modern and contemporary history. Chang earned her doctorate at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Her dissertation, “Reconstructing the Nation: Contemporary Korean Photography since the 1990s,” that she discusses today focused on how Korean art photography developed in parallel with the transformation of South Korea since the late 1980s. Her teaching and research interests also include the aftermath of World War II, the impact of the Cold War, globalization, and cultural identity seen through contemporary Asian art and photography.

Tingting Xu is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Art History at the University of Chicago. Her research focuses on the history of photography in China, and the intercultural and intermedial practices of Chinese artists in early modern and modern periods.  Her first Chinese book, Niche: In or Out – Interviews and Perspectives on Contemporary North American Photographic Artists, written when she was a MFA student at the Parsons School of Design, won two author’s prizes in China. She works as an assistant curator at the Peabody Essex Museum in 2018, helping organizing a coming major exhibition on nineteenth-century photographs of China. She is a recipient of The Mellon International Dissertation Research Fellowship (2018-2019), and the Joan and Stanford Alexander Award of the Houston Museum.


Rufei Luo, March 6

Luo Rufei, PhD candidate, Zhejiang University; exchange student, University of Chicago

“A Preliminary Research on Murals of Thousand Buddhas in Tibet:

Starting with the Zhabs Cave at Be Gdong of Rtswa Mda’ County of Mnga’ Ris Prefecture in Western Tibet”

Respondent: Dongshan Zhang, PhD candidate, Department of Art History

Friday, March 6, 2020

4:30-6:30 pm, CWAC 152

Refreshments will be provided


Abstract: This paper mainly focuses on the murals of Thousand Buddhas in Tibet to discover the cult of Mahāyāna Buddhism and “Buddha” in Tibet from the beginning of the Phyi dar Period (the Second Propagation of Tibetan Buddhism) in the 11th century. In addition, as the influence of “Tantrism” was growing in Tibet in this period, these images started to reveal a kind of “tantric” implication which showed a combination of Mahāyāna Buddhism and Tantrism. This paper starts with a case study on the murals of the Zhabs Cave at Rtswa mda’ County in Ngari Prefecture of Western Tibet. This case mainly consists of Mahāyāna motifs, including the Thousand Buddha motifs in the main chamber, as well as the images of Wheel of Rebirth, a Six-armed Avalokiteśvara, Jātaka tales among other images on the corridor.

Corridor and main chamber of the Zhabs Cave, Rtswa mda’ County, Ngari. Photo by author, 2019.

Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact Zhenru Zhou ( and Yin Wu (



Rufei Luo is currently a visiting student in the Department of Art History, the University of Chicago. She is a PhD candidate in Zhejiang University, studying Tibetan Buddhist Art under the guidance of Prof. Jisheng Xie. During her graduate study, she had experiences on fieldwork of the Buddhist relics in Tibet and many other places around China with the Center for Buddhist Art at Zhejiang University. She has co-edited the Diaosu Yishu: Jiangnan Juan (Art of Sculpture: Volume of Jiangnan) in The Collection of Tibetan Fine Art, which was published in 2019.


Dongshan Zhang is a PhD candidate in the Department of Art History, the University of Chicago. His interests are the Arts of the steppe peoples, who formed the Five Dynasties, Liao, Xia, Jin, and Yuan China(s). Before he came to Chicago, Dongshan completed coursework and internships at Chinese University of Hong Kong, Palace Museum (Beijing), Williams College, Columbia University, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. His MA thesis deals with the flowers and birds in a Yuan dynasty wall painting, Medicine Buddha Bhaisajyaguru.


May 25, Jue Hou

Friday, May 25,  4:30 – 6:30 pm, CWAC 156

Skin Deep: Corporeography from Kafka to Qiu Zhijie

Jue Hou
Committee on Social Thought, University of Chicago

(Left) Martin Senn, Franz Kafka: Der Eigentümliche Apparataus der Erzählung “In der Strafkolonie.” [Franz Kafka: The Peculiar Apparatus from the Story “In the Penal Colony.”]
(Right) Qiu Zhijie, 紋身2 [Tattoo II]

A comparative study of corporeal inscriptions, this paper interrogates the intersection of language, death, and the surface/depth of the body. Taking as my departure a recent medical case in which an unconscious patient’s tattooed request to withhold emergency care has spurred much debate, I intend to approach bodily writings as sites where language, communication, and mortality conjoin and contest with each other. Revisiting the famous debate between Jacques Derrida and John Searle over the nature of the signature, I shall seek to explore the materiality of writing through engaging a variety of texts and works of art, including Paul de Man’s writing on Wordsworth’s reflections upon epitaphs, Franz Kafka’s short story, “In the Penal Colony,” as well as representations of the skin in works of contemporary Chinese art such as Xu Bing’s A Case Study of Transference 一個轉換案例的研究, Zhang Huan’s Family Tree 家譜, and Qiu Zhijie’s Tattoo series 紋身系列. What is defacement? What can/do tattoos do? What are the limitations of the mind/body dualism, conceived through a phenomenology of the marked skin? What do corporeographies, understood as a kind of border writing that inhabits the fleshy interface, tell us about the surface/depth model of subjectivity? These are among questions I seek to address.

Friday, May 25,  4:30 – 6:30 pm, CWAC 156

Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact Nancy P. Lin (

Feb. 1, Zhiyan Yang

Thursday, February 1,  5:00 – 7:00 pm, CWAC 152  (Please note the special day and time)

When Recent Past Became New History: Learning from a Historical Survey (1987-1991) of Modern Architecture in China

Zhiyan Yang

Department of Art History, University of Chicago

”International Bridge in Tientsin,” an index label from The Architectural Heritage of Modern China: Tianjin中国近代建築総覧総覧:天津篇 (1989)

From 1987 to 1991, a team comprised of both Chinese and Japanese architectural historians collaborated to survey the existing architecture built in between 1840s and 1940s among eighteen Chinese cities and compiled an extensive list of data. Known as the Comprehensive Study of Modern Architecture in China 中国近代建筑总览, the project has reinvigorated the field and remained foundational to this day. I argue that it is unique not only as a corpus of documentation, but also as a historic event in itself. The nature of the collaboration cultivated a changing attitude towards China’s architectural heritages, revealing negotiations between different cultural, linguistic, and historiographical traditions. By unfolding the processes of knowledge production, comparing publications from both the Chinese and Japanese sides, and questioning the historical connotations and intricacies behind them, I hope to shed new light on how the Chinese architectural world understood and adapted to the new challenges by reconsidering its recent architectural past as a critical site for modernization. Analyzing both text and image through a comparative perspective, I will also explain the project against background of a globalizing contemporary architectural culture in the 1980s and explore why this particular history has had a broader intellectual and social impact on the entire region of East Asia.

Thursday, February 1,  5:00 – 7:00 pm, CWAC 152

Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact Nancy P. Lin (

Oct 27, LI Jian’an

Friday, October 27,  4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC 156


From the Mountain Forests to the Sea: Fujian Ancient Ceramics and the Maritime Silk Road

栗建安 LI Jian’an 

福建博物院文物考古研究所, 所长  Director, Institute of Cultural Relics and Archeology, Fujian Museum

*Note: This talk will be delivered in Chinese


Friday, October 27,  4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC 156

Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact Nancy P. Lin (

May 6 Henry Smith

Friday, May 6, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156

Making Meiji Red: Materiality vs Meaning in the Changing Colors of 19th-century Ukiyo-e

Henry Smith
Professor Emeritus of Japanese History, EALC, Columbia University

Two decades ago, I postulated a “Blue Revolution” in ukiyo-e woodblock prints that began in 1829 with a sudden increase in the use of imported Prussian blue, a versatile pigment that quickly dominated landscape prints in particular. I further argued that this bright new blue came to express a new awareness of the world across blue oceans under blue skies into which the Japanese were increasingly drawn. I hypothesized finally that a similar process would be repeated four decades later in the 1860s with the import of a new generation of imported colorants, but now the principal hues were purple and red. With the Meiji Restoration of 1868, I proposed, “Red became the modal color of another era with other priorities: where late-Edo blue was the color of expanding space, Meiji red was to become the color of accelerated time.” This talk is a report on an ongoing research project in which I have been engaged for two years in cooperation with the Department of Scientific Research at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, to identify these new colorants and trace their history. The results force a thorough reconception of the materiality of Meiji ukiyo-e colorants and their artistic possibilities, and in turn a new look at the diverse and changing meanings embodied in “Meiji Red.”

Friday, May 6, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156
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April 29 Douglas Gabriel

Friday, April 29, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156

Revolution from 360 Ft. Below: On the Pyongyang Metro and the Problem of Ground

Douglas Gabriel
Ph.D. Student, Northwestern University

Among the deepest subway systems in the world, the Pyongyang Metro is marked by a radical disjunction with the space of the North Korean capital above it. Rather than referencing street names or landmarks above ground, each of the 17 stations on the Metro’s two lines is named after and elaborately designed according to a revolutionary theme, ranging from Camaraderie to Prosperity. Further, the Metro stations contain no maps of Pyongyang, and, in turn, city maps do not indicate the locations of the Metro stations. Frequently, the Pyongyang Metro is characterized as, on the one hand, a conspicuous form of propagandistic brainwashing, and, on the other hand, the result of a militaristic effort to conceal the locations of underground sites that could potentially serve as emergency bomb shelters. In contrast, this paper draws on visual evidence as well as previously unutilized primary sources in order to demonstrate that the bifurcation of the Metro and the city space stems from a highly singular understanding of the relationship between material reality and revolutionary ideas. I argue that the architectural design, lighting, sound, and mosaic murals of the Metro stations form a complex system of aesthetic effects aimed at suspending the North Korean revolutionary project within a dialectic of ground and transcendence.

Friday, April 29, 4:30 to 6:30pm, CWAC156
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April 15 Kristina Kleutghen

Friday, April 15, 4 to 6pm, CWAC156

Optical Devices, Art, and Visuality in China

Kristina Kleutghen
Assistant Professor, Art History, Washington University in St. Louis


When European optical devices were first introduced into early modern East Asia, these devices affected not only viewing experiences and ideas about vision, but also the production of art. In contrast to the well-established effects on Japanese art, the Chinese case has barely been explored, not the least reason being that the science of optics did not develop significantly there prior to the mid-nineteenth century. Yet from the seventeenth century onward, Qing domestic production and use of optical devices resulted in significant relationships with art at the imperial, elite, and popular levels. The devices and the viewing experiences that they mediated created varying levels of foreign intervention into Chinese art, vision, and visuality. However, the consistent but diverse methods of Sinification of all these elements and the reliance on domestic products rather than imports offers new insights into how Qing art engaged the West without being limited to either the court or the capital. Through an art-historical case study of several different optical devices and their related works of art that are all linked through one particular type of magnifying lens, this talk examines how the production and consumption of these new objects and images varied with place, format, audience, and social status. 

Friday, April 15, 4:00 to 6:00pm, CWAC156

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