Lin Ke’s interactive ‘Art Book’: where printed matter meets augmented reality

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In 2016 Lin Ke 林科 released a book via Tria publishing that presents a chronological overview of his output from 2010-2016.  As an artist Lin is known for innovative works which explore the impact of digital technology and computer operating systems on contemporary art and visual culture. Integrating images culled from social media platforms with playful subversions of standard software packages and graphical user interfaces, his practice employs screen recording software and programming code to blur the boundaries between real and virtual spaces.

After graduating from the China Academy of Art’s New Media Department (now the School of Intermedia Art) in 2008, Lin began a series of video works which were created without the use of a video camera. Capturing the mundane real-time actions governing artistic creation in the computer age, many feature the artist interacting with his laptop. We view these videos via the computer’s own camera, controlled from a distance with the use of a touchpad as the artist records his own movements to music.


The resulting mirrored images, with their spectral layering of open windows, screen savers and desktop detritus present us with unsettling self-portraits of the digital age. As we increasingly experience life mediated by digital devices, they reinforce not only the reality of spending eight hours a day staring blankly at our computer screens but also the incursion of these virtual environments beyond the computer frame, personifying the uncanny possibility of a machine that can return our gaze.  Continue reading

Celebrating ‘The Chinternet’: Internet Art Practices in China

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This Wednesday I’m delivering a lecture on Internet Art practices in China, examining artists’ distinctly self-conscious celebration of what has often disparagingly been labelled ‘The Chinternet’.  The talk will interrogate the assumption that internet art emerging from China can only belatedly repeat works of Euro-American precedent, arguing that current practices present a dramatic reframing of online censorship, consumerism and the unique aspects of vernacular culture that have emerged within China’s online realm.

While the talk is advertised as being open to all members of Christ Church, interested parties from the public and the wider University community are welcome to attend.

The Art of the QR Code



This post is devoted to exploring a digital phenomenon that seems to have largely eluded audiences in Europe and America despite its pervasive presence within the art world in China: the QR (Quick Response) code 二维码.

QR codes are a ubiquitous feature of daily life in China. Plastered on newspaper adverts, restaurant flyers, giant billboards, subway posters, supermarket counters, buses and even business cards, the omnipresence of this seemingly mundane digital marker speaks volumes about the dominance of mobile networks, social media and communication technologies in contemporary China.


The functionality of QR codes within China has been significantly bolstered as a result of the majority of the country’s inhabitants accessing the internet via their mobile phones rather than through personal computers. According to recent statistics, 89% of China’s 700 million internet users go online using a mobile. Mobile online networks have therefore dovetailed with the convenience of QR codes, enabling a range of activities which might seem unthinkable to users outside of China. As this recently released video demonstrates, the simple scanning of a code can be used to make online payments, join social networks, access consumer discounts, attain online information, send digital money to friends and family, as well as countless other activities and services. In short, QR codes in China go far beyond the capabilities of their QR cousins in Europe or elsewhere, where they predominantly function as a means of digital ticketing including online boarding passes etc. Continue reading

UCL Press launches a series of free ebooks that explore the uses and consequences of social media around the world


UCL Press has just launched a great series of eleven free open access volumes of ethnographic research based on the ‘Why we Post’ project, a global anthropological research project on the uses and consequences of social media. Most of the books are available for download in pdf format, on epub or as paperback or hardback options.

For more information on the project, visit For an overview, take a look at the comparative book ‘How the World Changed Social Media’. For those with a particular interest in social media and China, Xinyuan Wang’s ‘Social Media in Industrial China’ shown below, contains fascinating chapters on ‘Visual Material on Social Media’ and ‘The Social Media Landscape in China’. Tom McDonald’s ‘Social Media in Rural China’ also has a great section on ‘Visual postings: Idealising family- love, marriage and ‘little treasures’. A full list of the titles in the series is shown below.

Why We Post

Why do we post on social media? Is it true that we are replacing face-to-face relationships with on-screen life? Are we becoming more narcissistic with the rise of selfies? Does social media create or suppress political action, destroy privacy or become the only way to sell something? And are these claims equally true for a factory worker in China and an IT professional in India? With these questions in mind, nine anthropologists each spent 15 months living in communities in China, Brazil, Turkey, Chile, India, England, Italy and Trinidad. They studied not only platforms but the content of social media to understand both why we post and the consequences of social media on our lives. Their findings indicate that social media is more than communication – it is also a place where we now live.

This series explores and compares the results in a collection of ground-breaking and accessible ethnographic studies. As with all UCL Press titles, they will be available as free PDF downloads, and a in low-cost print.

Recently Published

How the World Changed Social Media

How the World Changed Social Media

 A summary of the findings of ethnographic research undertaken in eight countries around the world.

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Social Media in Industrial China

Groundbreaking ethnographic study that examines social media usage in a factory town in southeast China.

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Social Media in Rural China

Absorbing ethnographic study by Tom McDonald that examines social media use in a small rural Chinese community.

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Titles in the Why We Post series include:

“The Art of Transculturality: New Frontiers in Postsocialist China’s Avant-garde and Urban Culture”


I’m currently in Switzerland for a 2 day conference hosted by the University of St. Gallen and organised by Prof. Daria Berg and Dr. Giorgio Strafella. I’ve included the original CFP below along with the detailed conference programme. The conference’s focus on the role of new media and the impact of the so-called ‘digital turn’ on art and literature should provide for some stimulating discussions and exchange and I look forward to sharing my findings from the conference in the coming days. For those interested in attending, general admission to the conference is free and you can register for tickets here.


This conference aims to explore innovative ways of looking at the dynamics of transculturality in postsocialist China’s avant-garde and urban culture by bringing together artists, writers, art curators and scholars. Avant-garde literature and art today exist at the margins of China’s officially ordained culture.

Transcultural trends transform China’s local culture in the age of globalisation. In twenty-first century China the new media — in particular Web 2.0 — offer an emerging public sphere that challenges the mechanisms of government censorship, allowing transcultural trends across China’s virtual frontiers. Web-based discourses traverse the borderlines between China’s officially ordained culture, the globalising world, and Chinese vernacular culture.

China’s new generation of avant-garde writers and artists push the boundaries of vernacular culture. They appropriate artistic and literary languages from the post/modern Western avant-garde movements to reflect on reform-era China’s transformation and the Maoist heritage.

The papers will investigate such forms of transculturality in avant-garde Chinese literature and art, focussing in particular on performance and conceptual art. Participants will look critically at the processes of appropriation of transcultural trends and the interpretation of avant-garde languages in contemporary China. During the workshop Chinese avant-garde artists will present and discuss their artistic production and methods. The workshop will shed new light on the transcultural trends and proactive interaction with non-Chinese communities and histories in China’s avant-garde literature and art.


Day 1 – 28 July 2016, 9:00-17:00

Opening Remarks


“Borderland, Minority Culture, and the Non-Han Other in Chinese Avant-gardists’ Fictions” – Liu Xi (The University of Hong Kong)

“Taiwan Sound Poetry” – Cosima Bruno (SOAS, University of London)

“Transcultural Encounters in Feminist Poetry from China: Zhai Yongming and the Unofficial Journal Yi” – Justyna Jaguscik (University of Zurich)

“Consuming ‘Boys Love’: Female Fantasy and the New Queer Discourse in China” – Xi Tian (Bucknell University)

“Transculturality in Hong Kong Artist Annie Wan’s Conceptual Ceramic Art” – Silvia Fok (The Hong Kong Polytechnic University)

“‘Words Divide, Pictures Unite’: Egalitarianism and Encryption in Xu Bing’s Book from the Sky(1987-1991) and Book from the Ground (2005-2014)” – Wenny Teo (The Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London)

“Is That Leg Loaded? Ai Weiwei, Instagram and the Politics of Networked Images” – Ros Holmes (University of Oxford)

“Narrating and Critiquing the Avant-garde in Contemporary China: The Case of Body Art” – Daria Berg and Giorgio Strafella (University of St Gallen)

“Play into Art: Cao Fei” – Enhua Zhang (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

Day 2 – 29 July 2016, 9:00 – 12:00

Keynote Speech: “Of Other Worlds to Come? The Avant-garde and the Politics of Chinese Transculturalism” – Andrea Riemenschnitter (University of Zurich)

Roundtable discussion with Katie Hill (Sotheby’s Institute), Rachel Marsden (The Temporary  / Birmingham City University), Achim Mittag (University of Tübingen) and Silvia Pozzi (University of Milano-Bicocca).

Closing Remarks 

A Beautiful Disorder: CASS Sculpture Foundation’s major exhibition of art from contemporary China, Hong Kong and Taiwan


Cui Jie 崔洁, ‘Pigeon’s House’《鸽子的房子》(2016), Stainless Steel 不锈钢, 4.5 x 2.6 x 2.45m


This weekend I travelled to the South Coast (near Chichester) for the opening of CASS Sculpture Foundation’s latest exhibition 无序之美 A Beautiful Disorder. The exhibition features the work of eighteen artists from Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan including: Bi Rongrong 毕蓉蓉, Cao Dan  曹丹, Cao Fei  曹斐, Cheng Ran 程然, Cui Jie 崔洁, Jennifer Wen Ma   马文, Li Jinghu 李景湖, Lu Pingyuan 陆平原, Rania Ho   何颖宜, Song Ta 宋拓, Tu Wei-Cheng 涂维政, Wang Sishun王思顺, Wang Wei王卫, Wang Yuyang 王郁洋 Xu Zhen (Produced by MadeIn Company) 徐震(没顶公司出品), Zhang Ruyi 张如怡, Zhao Yao 赵要 and Zheng Bo 郑波 and is the largest (and arguably first) showcase of outdoor contemporary sculpture by these artists to be held in the UK.

The exhibition takes its name from a letter penned by the French missionary and Qing court painter Jean-Denis Attiret in 1743. Writing to a friend in Paris, Attiret described details of the garden and architecture of the ‘Garden of Perfection and Light’ 圆明园 in the Old Summer Palace in Beijing. Praising the garden for its unpredictability, diversity and adherence to naturalism, Attiret wrote: “[the Chinese] rather chose a beautiful disorder, and a wandering as far as possible from all the rules of art. They go entirely on this principle, that what they are to represent there, is a natural and wild view of the country; a rural retirement, and not a palace formed according to all the rules of art.”

Attiret’s ideas were to have a profound impact on English landscape aesthetics, particularly the naturalistic, free-flowing forms that have characterised English garden culture from the 18th century onwards. Ushering in what was then considered a stylistic revolution,  famous figures such as the architect Sir William Chambers, designer of Somerset House (home of the Courtauld Institute of Art) and the famous Chinese Pagoda at Kew Gardens were similarly keen to adopt the Chinese garden’s ability to provoke ‘violent or opposing sensations’ through a series of theatrical framing devices that allowed the viewer to look out onto a wider panorama.  Taking the historical relationship between Chinese and English landscape aesthetics as a point of departure, the exhibition curators Wenny Teo, Ella Liao and Claire Shea therefore conceived of the exhibition as a series of unexpected scenes and sensory experiences situated throughout the grounds of the foundation. As viewers navigate their way around the woodland typography of tree-lined pathways, sheltered groves and pastoral vistas, gradually encountering the works on display, they are invited to reflect on ‘China’s past, present and future relationship with the world at large.’ Continue reading

Summer Events and Exhibitions


For anyone that’s keen to know what contemporary art events are taking place in the coming months here’s a link to an extremely useful blog post written by Rachel Marsden. Rachel is a curator and PhD researcher specialising in Chinese contemporary art and culture and she has provided a great rundown of exhibition openings, talks and events occurring throughout the UK in June and July.

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Cheng Ran, Crossroads, Maquette, 2016.

One imminent event I’ll be attending is CASS Sculpture Foundation‘s opening of ‘A Beautiful Disorder‘ this Saturday (2nd July), the first major exhibition of newly commissioned outdoor sculpture by contemporary artists from Greater China to be shown in the UK, it promises to be a fantastic exhibition and I’ll be providing a full rundown of the artists and works on display early next week.



Around the World in 8 Papers: Itineraries for a History of Photography Beyond the Western Canon

Tomorrow I’ll be taking part in a study day organised by Mirjam Brusius as part of the University of Oxford’s ‘Photography Seminar’. It promises to be a very lively day of discussion and exchange with  papers tackling everything from Egyptian Studio Photography to Colonial Photography in Central America. I’ve included the full progamme below.

Dislocations: Remapping Art Histories

Staircase-III 2010 by Do Ho Suh born 1962

Staircase-III 2010 Do Ho Suh born 1962 Purchased with funds provided by the Asia Pacific Acquisitions Committee 2011

On the 3rd and 4th December last year I attended Tate Modern’s conference on Dislocations: Remapping Art Histories, organised by the Tate Research Centre, Asia-Pacific. The two day event featured a fantastic array of artists, curators and academics addressing questions on performance, socially engaged practice and the methodological rethinking of the Western-centrism of 20th century art histories. As Tate Modern notes: “Topics included environmental art and performance in Japan in the 1960s, performance and its relationship to installation art in the Philippines in the 1970s, transnational and multivalent character of Modernism’s centres such as Paris and Mumbai, the effect of the internet and social networking technologies in contemporary Chinese art and the ‘social’ legacy of the socialist era in contemporary practice in China.”

The video recordings from the conference are now available to view online, so for anyone that was unable to attend the event I thought I would include a link here to the final session, on ‘Contemporary Art and the Social’ as it addresses themes which are extremely pertinent to online visual culture.

The other two sessions can also be watched by following the links below. Lee Ambrozy’s talk on ‘An Expanded Definition of Performance Art in China’ in session 1 is a fascinating talk which is definitely worth watching. The full conference programme is available to download here.