Yan Geng

Art History/Asian Studies, Connecticut
Fellowship: 01.10.16–31.03.17


Yan Geng is an assistant professor with a joint appointment in the Department of Art and Art History and the Institute of Asian and Asian American Studies at the University of Connecticut. She completed her Ph.D. study in East Asian art history at Heidelberg University in Germany in 2012. Her dissertation focuses on the representation of Mao Zedong in the early People’s Republic of China and examines how Mao’s portrait as the nation’s leader was constructed and what such images suggest about the Chinese artists’ experience during the Communist takeover of the country. She has been teaching Asian art in Connecticut since 2013 and was awarded a postdoctorial fellowship for the exhibition »Postwar – Art between the Pacific and Atlantic 1945-1965« in Haus der Kunst, Munich during the academic year 2014-2015.


Fields of Research

  • Modern Chinese art
  • Political space
  • Media and cultural interactions


Project outline

Space, Power, and Memory: Mediating Urban Transformation in Socialist China


My research project concerns the dynamics of cultural figurations as well as the mediality between architectural reconstruction and the re-imagination of life formation in socialist China. I will examine the important role of political power in the urban transformation and also explore the cultural mechanism that undergird such political decisions. By considering China’s socialist art and architecture within a porous multi-cultural context, this project challenges the conventional view of propaganda work and addresses how artistic concepts and practices circulated across permeable temporal and ideological boundaries.

As a core section of the book manuscript, the study of places of memory attempts a new perspective on life imaging in modern China. I will analyze the tension between architectural construction and visual representation that reconfigures memorial space in two-dimensional surface. Attending to the control of image figuration to articulate specific political ideology, this project aims to offer special insights on the contrasting ways of “life imaging”: that of collectivity and that of individuality in socialist China.


Publications (Selection)

  • »Guangchang as Political Space: Re-Imaging the Public Square in Modern China,« in Platz-Bild/Imaging the Public Square, eds. Brigitte Sölch and Stephanie Hanke (Munich/Berlin: Deutscher Kunstverlag) (in preparation).
  • »A New Earthly Paradise: Appropriation and Politics in Li Keran’s Representation of Beihai Park,« Archives of Asian Art 64 (2014): 75-92.
  • »Tiananmen: From Imperial Gate to Communist Icon,« in The Challenge of the Object: Proceedings of the 33rd Congress of the International Committee of the History of Art (Nurnberg: Verlag Germanischen Nationalmuseum, 2013), 1122-1125.
  • »Performing Authority: Mao Zedong’s Image at the Founding of the People’s Republic of China,« in Shifting Paradigms in East Asian Visual Culture: A Festschrift in honor of Lothar Ledderose, eds. Burglind Jungmann, Adele Schlombs and Melanie Trede (Berlin: Reimer Verlag, 2012), 175-190.
  • »Archaism Emulation: Case Study of Dong Qichang’s (1555-1636) Landscape in 1622,« in Art of China (Warsaw: Neriton 2009), 77-84.