Fantasies of the Self: Multiples, Illusions and Poems in the Photographic Culture of Modern China

Nov 8, 2016 | 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM

Shengqing Wu (Associate Professor, Division of Humanities, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology;  HYI Visiting Scholar, 2016-17)
Chair/discussant: David Wang 
(Edward C. Henderson Professor of Chinese Literature, East Asian Languages and Civilizations Department, Harvard University)
Co-sponsored with the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies

This talk investigates the visual configurations, rhetorical conventions, and fundamental concepts underlying China’s portrait photography in the early twentieth century. By surveying pictorial magazines, photo albums of courtesans, and poems written about new visual experiences, it addresses issues of how portrait photography was understood and practiced in the flourishing urban culture, and how traditional aesthetics, visual tropes, and Buddhist concepts were involved in adopting and indigenizing the new visual media. The complex interactions of modern technology and aestheticism, image and text, reveal that aesthetic tradition was deeply implicated in the cross-cultural exchanges of technologies and power in the formation of China’s urban culture and visual modernity, further enriching our understanding of optical truth and illusion.