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Visual Arts

“Ecological Entanglements from Northeast China and Beyond” Co-Learning Series


“Ecological Entanglements from Northeast China and Beyond” Co-Learning Series
Organizer: WU SPACE
Supported by Pro Helvetia Shanghai, Swiss Arts Council


“Ecological Entanglements from Northeast China and Beyond” is a co-learning series among artists, presented by WU SPACE and supported by Pro Helvetia Shanghai, Swiss Arts Council. The series, curated by researcher and curator Mia Yu, invites artists and researchers from home and abroad to delve into local history from their own field experiences, and to engage in dialogue and co-learning on topics such as nature awareness, energy infrastructure, ecological transformation caused by mining, post-industrial rewilding, and industrial waste. The series will attempt to establish comparative links between Northeast China and other regions of the world, and to explore the neglected and non-classical perspectives of the Global South. “Ecological Entanglements from Northeast China and Beyond” will take place from late July to late November 2022 and will consist of four online seminars, closed-door workshops, and field trips to the Northeast. Four Swiss artists, Uriel Orlow, Anastasia Mityukova, Pauline Julier, and Vanessa Billy will attend the event series.

Speakers: Anastasia Mityukova, Chen Xiaoyi, Mia Yu
Convener: Mia Yu
Date: July 27, 2022, 20:00 – 22:00 [GMT + 08:00] (Lecture + Q&A)
Language: Chinese + English
Interpretor: Jiajing Lily Sun
Zoom Meeting ID: 971 2286 0042
Zoom Link: https://zoom.us/j/97122860042
Bilibili Live Link: http://live.bilibili.com/25514162

Text review (in Chinese)

“Ecological Entanglements from Northeast China and Beyond” Co-Learning Series [1]

Between the Dongbei Railroads, the Hengduan Mountains and the Greenland Ice Sheet: Mediatizing the Infrastructures of Planetary Dimension

The first online seminar, titled “Between the Dongbei Railroads, the Hengduan Mountains and the Greenland Ice Sheet: Mediatizing the Infrastructures of Planetary Dimension,” will feature Mia Yu, artist Chen Xiaoyi, and Geneva-based artist Anastasia Mityukova, with a focus on massive-scale infrastructures embedded in the earth. Respectively addressing themselves to the railroad–coal-mine complex in Northeast China, the scatters of mining caves in the Hengduan Mountains, and the U.S. military base in Greenland, the participants will explore the geopolitics, ecological transformation, image mechanisms, and individual narratives behind these infrastructures. The melting of Arctic sea ice is the corollary of fossil fuel emissions, and the ecological problems caused by the Cold War are manifesting themselves in an unexpected way in the present and the future. As humans overexploit nature, nature, in turn, rewrites the fate of humans. What are the complex entanglements between coal, minerals, earth’s crust, ice, and human beings in the telescoping of deep time and the history of the 20th century? Using the media of painting, photography, and video, how do artists mediate macroscopic studies and microscopic perceptions of planet-scale infrastructures? Moreover, does the work of artists imply the existence of certain non-classical alternative perspectives of the Global South?

About the CONVENER

Mia Yu

Mia Yu is a Beijing-based, globally active art historian and curator. Her research interests include global exhibition histories, Asian geopolitics, infrastructure, decolonization and the Anthropocene in Northeast China. Her recent exhibitions include “Three Contested Sites—The Worldly Fables of the Long 1990s” (co-curated with Nikita Cai), “Resonances of One Hundred Things” (OCAT Biennale 2021), “From Vladivostok to Xishuangbanna” (Jimei x Arles International Photo Festival 2020), “Photoethics: CHINAFRICA” (2020) and “Ni Jun: An Inconvenient Case” (2019). Mia Yu was the winner of theYishu Award for Critical Writing on Contemporary Art in 2018, the recipient of the Tate Asia Research Travel Fellowship in 2017 and the winner of the CCAA Art Critic Award in 2015. She was also nominated for the Curator of the Year Award for the 14th AAC Art Awards in 2019. Mia Yu’s research essays appeared at the book Uncooperative Contemporaries: Art Exhibitions in Shanghai in 2000  published by Afterall Exhibition Research Center and Bard College as well as other art journals. Her video essays have been exhibited at Times Art Center Berlin, Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Guangdong Times Museum, Villa Vassilieff Paris and Asia Society Hong Kong. In 2021, Mia Yu initiated the long-term para-curatorial project “North x Anthropocene: Ecological Sensibilities from the Edges”.


Anastasia Mityukova

Anastasia Mityukova (1992) is a Swiss visual artist based in Geneva. She obtained her bachelor in photography at ECAL in 2018 and her master’s in contemporary art practices at HEAD in 2021. Her artistic practice is exploring ambivalences of the photographic medium. Embracing photography’s ambiguity, and constantly interrogating how we are trained to treat photographs as evidence is the core of her research. She is challenging this medium with an approach close to a documentary, using methods of gathering, comparison, field research, trying to deconstruct our knowledge of certain stories and events.

Chen Xiaoyi

Chen Xiaoyi, received an MA Photography from London College of Communication. Her works are based on photography but not confined to specific media, focusing on the subtle perceptions of human beings by producing images. In the projects that have been progressing in recent years, she has focused on Western China as a resource area in history, focusing on the mines and mining relics in the Hengduan Mountains region as cuts, and continuously salvaging those lost time, the mystery of nature and the land. She has exhibited internationally; she was awarded the Three Shadows Photography Award in 2015, and named one of Asia’s 30 Artists under 30 by Forbes magazine 2017.

Speaker: Pauline Julier
Discussant: Wang Huan
Convener: Mia Yu
Date: September 26, 2022, 20:00–22:00 [GMT + 08:00] (Lecture + Q&A)
Language: Chinese + English
Interpretor: Jiajing Lily Sun
Zoom Meeting ID: 814 1496 6981
Zoom Link: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/81414966981
Bilibili Live Link: http://live.bilibili.com/25514162

Text review (in Chinese)

“Ecological Entanglements from Northeast China and Beyond” Co-Learning Series [2]

Reclaiming Temporalities and Narratives in the Landscapes of the Anthropocene

“Reclaiming Temporalities and Narratives in the Landscapes of the Anthropocene” is the second event in the “Ecological Entanglements from Northeast China and Beyond” series. Curated by Mia Yu and supported by WU SPACE and Pro Helvetia Shanghai, the series invite artists and researchers from China and around the world to share their field research, local knowledge and artistic practice related to the Anthropocene, ecological politics, climate change, rewilding and renewable energy. Following the first event “Between the Dongbei Railroads, the Hengduan Mountains and the Greenland Ice Sheet: Mediatizing the Infrastructure of Planetary Dimension,” the second event will center on the different possibilities of engaging landscape to tell the stories of the Anthropocene.

Pauline Julier | Naturales Historiae: Multiple Temporalities and Narratives in the Landscapes of the Anthropocene

Pauline Julier’s Naturales Historiae (56 minutes, 2015-2019) is an art project that takes form in a film, a publication, and an exhibition. The film title Naturales Historiae is borrowed from the encyclopedic work by Pliny the Elder of the Roman Empire. Filmed in China, France, and Italy over the span of four years, the work questions the ways of which human think and represent nature. Each chapter explores a situation of human beings grappling with nature and its images, including the 2010 eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull, the prehistoric forest fossils found in Ordos’s coalseam, how Pliny the Elderly died while observing the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, and Cassini’s suicidal mission to Saturn. Julier’s film reveals our obsessions to nature and shakes up our certainties of taming it. The artist skillfully embraces multi-perspectives of the filmic medium while weaving various forms of narration like document, story-telling and science fiction. For the event, Pauline Julier will show film excerpts and speak how she utilizes the multi-temporalities and muti-perspectives of film to restitute the complexity of a place.

Mia Yu | Gaia has Never Left: Three Journeys to Fushun From 1682 to 2022 

Since 2020, Mia YU has organized a number of field trips to Northeast China, as part of her curatorial project “North x Anthropocene”. One of the key destinations of these field trips was Fushun coal mine, Asia’s earliest fossil fuel base, also the home to the largest open-pit mine. After more than century-long excavation and accumulation, the mine and its vast mine tailings have fully integrated into the city’s morphology. Since mining activities decreased twenty years ago, the tailings, in particular, grew into a state of wilderness. Such unintended rewilding process made multi-species ecologies possible. Currently, Fushun is undergoing massive transformation to renewable energy. Tens of thousands of solar panels are being erected by the government on the tailings. For this talk, Mia YU will talk about her field research in Fushun and her ongoing writing project in which she imagines a female flâneur and storyteller called Gaia who live and wander on the coal refuse hill. Interweaving historical facts and fiction, Gaia tells the story of three historical journeys to Fushun: the 1682 eastern tour of the Kangxi Emperor accompanied by Jesuit missionary Nan Huairen (Ferdinand Verbiest), the 1934 trip of a Japanese cartographer to Fushun, and the 1961 sketching tour of Fu Baoshi, a well-known Chinese ink painter. From the traditional cosmology of fengshui to the Socialist spirit of “man can conquer nature”, how do human perceive and depict landscape through technology and power? How might Gaia’s story offer us new perspectives on multispecies symbiosis?


Pauline Julier

Pauline Julier is an artist and filmmaker. She explores the links that humans create with their environment through stories, rituals, knowledge and images. Her films and installations are composed of elements of diverse origins (documentary, theoretical, fictional) to restitute the complexity of our relationship to the world.

Her installations and films have been screened in contemporary art centers, institutions and festivals around the world, including the Center Pompidou (Paris), Loop (Barcelona), Visions du Réel (Nyon), Tokyo Wonder Site (Tokyo), Museum of Modern Art in Tanzania, Geneva Art Center,  Palazzo Grassi (Venice), New York, Madrid, Berlin, Zagreb, Cinémathèque de Toronto and the Pera Museum in Istanbul. Julier had a solo exhibition at the Centre Culturel Suisse in Paris (CCS) in 2017. She completed a year-long residency in Rome in 2020 at the Istituto Svizzero, and her film “Naturales Historiae” has been shown online on Vdrome.org. Her new film, “Way Beyond”, premiered in competition at Visions du Reel Festival and will be in theatres in Switzerland in October 2022. She received the Swiss Art Award 2021 in Basel and had a big installation in the Insitute of Contemporary Art in Villeurbanne (FR- february 2022). MEADOW, his latest artist book has just been published by Roma Publications Amsterdam.

Wang Huan

Wang Huan is a Beijing-based writer, critic and curator. He is the co-founder and chief editor of GENERAL. He has published a series of art criticisms in various media such as ARTFORUMLEAP Magazine, Jiazazhi Magazine, Heichi Magazine, CLABO (Taiwan Contemporary Culture Lab), IDEATArt MonthlySTUDIO VOIVEUNLIRICEKINFOLKArt World Magazine, Ocula, as well as Ray Art Center’s Reviews, New Century Art Foundation, and IAAC (International Awards for Art Criticism), etc.

In 2018, he won the first prize of the 5th International Awards for Art Criticism (IAAC). In 2019, he won the PSA Emerging Curators Project with the curatorial project “Sunset on a Dead End.” He was a nominated curator of the Jimei × Arles Discovery Award in 2016 and 2019. In 2020, he was elected to Artist-in-Residence Taipei 2020, and he published the book “NOTHING LEFT BUT WORDS ” as the chief editor. He was also the chief editor for Wushu Xiuci, the first volume of Jiazazhi magazine. Recently he’s working on a cross-cultural research project which focuses on secret societies and primitive art. Using contemporary secret folk associations and folk images as field research samples, his project explores the origin and motivation of primitive creativity before the technologized time, as well as the contemporary secrets that flow within the undercurrents of folklore.

Fieldtrip Organizers: Mia Yu, Li Yong, Pang Haoqing
Participants: Han Qian, Geng Yini, Li Tianqi, Ma Shuoli, Qiu Yu, Song Yuanyuan, Zhang Ran, Zhang Yibei, Zhao Lu, Lu Yuxi, Jiang Miao
Sites of Visit: Fushun West Open Pit Mine and Ecological Zone, Xishechang Photovoltaic Power Generation Project, Xishechang Waste Incineration Treatment Plant, Qingyuan Pumped Storage Power Plant Construction Site, Mining Subsidence Area, Fushun No. 1 Oil Refinery Plant Ruins, Fushun Coal Museum, Fushun Daguan Kiln
Support by WU SPACE, Pro Helvetia Shanghai

“Ecological Entanglements from Northeast China and Beyond” Co-Learning Series [3]

Fushun as a Research Field: Thinking About Temporalities, Energy Flow and Individual Sensibilities Towards a Sustainable Future

“Fushun as a Research Field: Thinking About Temporalities, Energy Flow and Individual Sensibilities Towards a Sustainable Future” is the third part of the series “Ecological Entanglements from Northeast China and Beyond”.

Following the first session “Between the Dongbei Railroads, the Hengduan Mountains and the Greenland Ice Sheet: Mediatizing the Infrastructures of Planetary Dimension” and the second session “Reclaiming Temporalities and Narratives in the Landscapes of the Anthropocene”, the third session will focus on the artists’ field trip to Fushun in August 2022. Fushun was Asia’s forerunner in energy and the largest heavy industry development since the early 20th century. It also possesses the deepest ecological trauma. Taking Fushun as a research field, the trip seeks to shed lights on the shifting human-earth relationship and complex ecological perceptions in China’s transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy.

Speaker: Uriel Orlow, Han Qian, Qiu Yu, Li Yong
Convener and Speaker: Mia Yu
Date: November 1, 2022, 19:30-21:30 [GMT + 08:00] (Lecture + Q&A)
Language: Chinese + English
Interpretor: Jiajing Lily Sun
Zoom Meeting ID: 826 4555 3142
Zoom Link: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/82645553142
Bilibili Live Link: http://live.bilibili.com/25514162

Text review (in Chinese)

Uriel Orlow | Ruins in Reverse, Haunting and the Restitution of Memory to History

In this talk, Uriel Orlow will present a number of recent projects developed from Armenia to the Democratic Republic of Congo which engage with micro-histories, spatial manifestations of memory, social and ecological justice and blind spots of representation. He will engage with the question, how we as artists can engage in different forms of haunting, alternative temporalities and reparative sociability?

Mia Yu | Unpacking Fushun: Energy Flow, Deep-Time Landform and Geo-Engineered Nature

As the initiator of “North x Anthropocene” project, Mia Yu provides an overall review of the summer fieldtrip to Fushun. On one hand, this fieldtrip is an exploration of the rise and fall of mining and industrial development history, enabling artists to refresh their impression of various forms of energy infrastructure; on the other hand, it attempts to offer a planetary perspective on the complex interplay among deep geological timescale, coal, oil, mining wastes and renewable energy. In the process, Fushun emerges as a perceptible site of artistic research.

Han Qian | In The Stillness Between Two Waves Of The Sea: The Field in Art Practices

Han Qian will base her reflection on how an artist arrives at the field, from her current new work “In The Stillness Between Two Waves Of The Sea,” With ten-year living experiences in Europe, Han Qian is torn between two different perspectives. It was only when she arrived in Northeast China for the “first time” that the tangled relationship between land and identity led her to a new field. From Wuhan to Northeast China, from the ironworks to the mines, all the encounters and arrivals interpenetrate and absorb everything around her confronting both the order of the old world and the look of a new life. In her recent works, confusion and understanding share a ground of intergrowth in her work. How can anthropogenic time and geological time grow from this land and mirror each other? In this process, In this process, does the human also transformed into a kind of “sediment” in different scales of time? What is consumed and what is built seems always to be intertwined.

Qiu Yu | Complex Perception marked with the “Scar”

The trip to Fushun brought Qiu Yu to a specific field wherein his body becomes a medium for perception. The convergence of hope and abandonment echoes the transition from fossil to new energy. In the magnitude of geological time, the strata elements mingle with the body, of which the wandering artist becomes a part. As the “scars” are covered with callus, they pulsate and itch, and tangle with each other. Qiu Yu will share his idiosyncratic experience, episodic reminisce and imagination aroused by technology, energy, ecology and body perception during the period of the transition from old to new energy.

Li Yong | “The Burning Wilderness”: Two Stages of Observing Xishechang

A Fushun resident and observer of Xishechang Waste Field, Li Yong has experienced many changes in his ways of observing and engaging Fushun after co-organizing and participating in the fieldtrip. Li Yong’s creation has always been marked with the keyword “waste”, tapping into the energy and vitality in “waste”. The energy of Xishechang is embodied in the heat with the form of combustion. It strikes an astonishing resemblance with the landscape in the Mexican writer Juan Rulfo’s work. On the cover of Rulfo’s book “The Burning Field”, there is a sentence which reads “Despair is like wildfire, burning the hard-skinned plain clean”. For Li Yong, burning never equals desperation in Xishechang. Li Yong attempts to understand the geological and historical time of the combustion and treats it as an influx of light and heat, while reading the changes in Xishechang in the ebb and the flow of time.


Uriel Orlow

Uriel Orlow’s practice is research-based, process-oriented and often in dialogue with other disciplines. Projects engage with residues of colonialism, spatial manifestations of memory, social and ecological justice, blind spots of representation and plants as political actors. Working across installation, photography, film, drawing and sound his works bring different image-regimes and narrative modes into correspondence. His work has been presented at major survey exhibitions including in 2022 at the Berlin Biennale, British Art Show 9, Kathmandu Triennale 2077, Kochi Biennale and Dakar Biennale and previously at the 54th Venice Biennale, Manifesta 9 & 12, B, Lubumbashi Biennial VI, 13th Sharjah Biennial amongst others. Monographic publications include Conversing with Leaves (Archive Books, 2020), Soil Affinities (Shelter Press, 2019) and Theatrum Botanicum (Sternberg Press, 2018). Uriel Orlow is a research fellow at University of Westminster London and a docent at University of the Arts, Zurich.

Han Qian

Han Qian is an artist and writer. Taking body and time perception as her departure point, Han focuses on the intertwined time that stretches between the real and the imagined, the everyday and the other. Through the threads of memory, dreams and history, she contemplates personal identity and its history, trying to make her creations as a continuous journey between the past and the present. Individual experiences and memories act as intimate clues in the journey, searching for possibilities of and dialogues with external and historical identities in symbiosis. She mainly creates videos, installations, performance, prints and texts. Her current axis of work is based on the family history of three generations of her own family and to sort out the migration and re-creation of the Chinese steel industry from north to south in the twentieth century. She explores the genealogy of natural resources and political discourse behind this historical narrative, and the changes in individual destinies within it, and thus begins a series of long-term field-based creative projects.

Qiu Yu

Qiu Yu is an artist and a candidate for the PhD in Art and Technology at the School of Design of the Central Academy of Fine Arts. He is engaged in the creation and research of technology art. In his works, he uses mixed media such as sound, video, installation, and objects to explore the inner logic and linguistic relationship embedded in technology media and the perception of life under the influence of mixed media. His works have been exhibited in the Beijing Media Art Biennale, B3 Biennale, the Jinji Lake Biennale, the Anren Biennale, the Asian Digital Art Exhibition, the “Growing” International Biological Art Exhibition, the 13th National Exhibition of Fine Arts, and other exhibitions in China and abroad.

Li Yong

Li Yong is an artist who lives in Fushun. In his early works, he searched for micro-vitality and balance in the space of Fushun. In recent years, his work has focused on the interwoven energy of light and heat in the ruined field of Fushun, chasing the complex temporal entanglement of the historical, geological and future in it. His works are mainly but not limited to photography, as he  also uses video and installation. He has been nominated for the 2010 Three Shadows Photography Award and the 2015 TOP20 Chinese Contemporary Photography. His works have been exhibited at the Beijing International Photography Biennale, Art Beijing, and other art museums and galleries. In 2020, Chinese Contemporary Photography Catalog – Li Yong was published by Zhejiang Photography Press.

Speakers: Vanessa Billy, Shuyi Cao, Mia Yu
Convener: Mia Yu
Date: November 22, 2022, 20:00 – 22:00 [GMT + 08:00] (Lecture + Q&A)
Language: Chinese + English
Interpretor: Jiajing Lily Sun
Zoom Meeting ID: 811 3138 7621
Zoom Link: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/81131387621
Bilibili Live Link: http://live.bilibili.com/25514162

Text review (in Chinese)

“Ecological Entanglements from Northeast China and Beyond” Co-Learning Series [4]

Speculative Geology and the Hauntings of the Anthropocene

“Speculative Geology and the Hauntings of the Anthropocene” is the fourth part of the online sharing series “Ecological Entanglements from Northeast China and Beyond.” The fourth session will feature recent works of New York-based artist Shuyi Cao and Zurich-based artist Vanessa Billy, and invite both artists to share their insights on concepts of speculative geology, the materiality of the waste, post-anthropocene landscapes, and the multi-species kinship supposition, to which the convener Mia Yu will actively respond.

Vanessa Billy | Fossil Afterlife

Vanessa Billy is looking for ways to engage physically in a contemporary world geared towards consumption of finished goods. Presenting works spanning over a decade she will discuss her sculptural and installative practice, which started with picking up waste in skips and has developed to use both handmade and industrial materials. Contrary to evolutionist models Billy proposes hybrid forms as a way to escape the dualism between nature and culture, an attempt to inscribe the human in a de-hierarchised continuum. Her installation reveals a complex materiality, in which each work is autonomous but comes together to create a landscape of altered nature. This ensemble simulates a mechanised, or industrially produced, environment in which the metabolisms of animals and plants have gone awry. In this way the artist makes tangible the myriad of macro and micro alterations inflicted on the earth and other life forms.

Shuyi Cao | Speculative Geology, Paradoxical Kin

The talk focuses on the speculative geology addressed in her recent explorations of material and technological approaches to layered temporalities and latent terrains in a more-than-human world, navigating through incompatible scales and relational affinity across a myriad of networked life forms.


Vanessa Billy

Vanessa Billy is concerned with intrinsic and transformative properties of materials, with the materialisation of processes of constant exchange within our environment and between humans and other living beings. The artist uses a wide range of organic and synthetic materials and waste products, including bronze, bio-resin, or waste oil; as well as industrial objects such as electric cables offcuts, disused car engines or obsolescent light bulbs. Thematically, Billy’s sculptural practice explores ecological issues, energy cycles, dystopian visions and alchemical processes. She draws parallels between physical and mental constructs and questions the impact of human activity on the planet.

Her solo shows include: ‘Dear Life’, Centre Culturel Suisse, Paris, FR (2017); ‘We dissolve’ Kunsthalle Sankt Gallen, ‘Sustain sustain’, Collective, Edinburgh, UK (2014). Recent group shows include: ‘Oil. Beauty and Horror in the Petrol Age’, Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, DE (2021); ‘Swiss Sculpture 1945 to today’ Kunsthaus Aarau, CH (2021); ‘WE HYBRIDS!’, Istituto Swizzero, Roma, IT (2020); ‘Slow Objects’, The Common Guild, Glasgow, UK (2017).

Shuyi Cao

Shuyi Cao is a New York-based artist whose practice explores alchemical approaches to object-making and knowledge production through archaeological speculation and ecological fiction. Her mixed-medium installations synthesize various organic and inorganic materials, natural and artificial processes. Combining hand-crafted sculptures and digital artifacts, moving images, and sounds, the assemblage suggests heterogeneous material temporality. Her work has been internationally exhibited in China, the United States, and Canada, including Today Art Museum, Ming Contemporary Art Museum, Contemporary Gallery Kunming, Chronus Art Center, Banff Centre for the Arts, Chambers Fine Art, Fou Gallery, A.I.R. 13th Biennale, among others. She is the recipient of the Today Art Museum Wang Shikuo Nomination Award, The New School Tishman Environment and Design Center Research Grant, MASS MoCA’s Assets for Artists Grant. She is a visiting assistant professor at Pratt Institute, faculty at Parsons School of Design, and has presented at Pioneer Works, NEW INC New Museum, Power Station of Art, the University of Applied Arts Vienna, and the City University of Hong Kong. She received a Bachelor of Laws from Fudan University in Shanghai (2013), an M.A. in Public Administration from Fudan University (2016), and an M.F.A. from Parsons School of Design, New York (2018).


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