Sandy Ng will give a Brown Bag Lunch presentation on Thursday, February 7, at 12:15 pm. Her talk is entitled “Design and the Feminine Self in Early Twentieth Century Visual Culture in China.”

Ng’s research focuses on exploring the role of design in the formation of lifestyle and modern culture; in particular, it examines how hybrid designs that combine western concepts with Chinese values can be modern, while simultaneously affirming cultural identity through cultural appropriation. This talk will look closely at graphic design and photographs created between 1912 and 1949 in which women introduced contemporary designs and lifestyle to Chinese consumers. Advertising posters, filled with desirable imported products like wristwatches and high-heel shoes, associated middle-class females with materialistic culture that changed their way of life and redefined their identities. Ng will discuss women as both objectified subjects and active consumers and how the two identities evolved together. How has consumption transformed women’s appearances and mentality? How have these changes affected the ways they perceived themselves? Did their self-images correspond with how others regard them? Did consumption impart a sense of respectability to the modern woman that helped her develop a sense of self? This talk will explore visual examples in the context of Guy Debord’s concept of the spectacle, which will enhance understanding on women’s cultural and social characters and reveal how imageries became instrumental in redefining female subjectivity in the modern era.

Sandy Ng is Assistant Professor of Culture and Theory at The School of Design, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. She received her PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London) specializing in modern Chinese art and culture. Her published works include several articles that examine the notion of hybrid modernism in Lin Fengmian’s figurative paintings (1900–1991). She attends international conferences and publishes journal articles on a range of issues concerning how modernity and cultures shape artistic representation and design. In recent years, the focus of her research has shifted to scrutinizing the concept of gender in design and to looking at new approaches to revitalize traditional customs in order to inspire contemporary design thinking and practices. Two forthcoming publications will examine how artists embrace modernity and fashion the “self” in the twentieth century, and how national and female identities are tied to the design of cheongsam in Hong Kong. At Bard Graduate Center, she will work on a research project that explores the roles of the newly emerging “modern woman” and her impact on the introduction of modern design into advertisements, films, and photographs in the culture of Republican-era China (1912–1949).