Yeewan Koon gave a Brown Bag Lunch presentation on Wednesday, February 20, at 12:15 pm. Her talk is entitled “A Chinese Canton: Making an Album of Things.”

We now commonly used the name “Canton” for Guangdong, but it was historically a space without any fixed geographical co-ordinates and at one time measured no more than a quarter mile long. Nonetheless, it was soon given all the logics of being a place even as its imagined scale far exceeded reality. More importantly, there was no singular concept of Canton as its many visitors held different ideas of what this port city was through the objects that they carried away. But what did Canton mean to the people who made these things? Koon will attempts to tackle this question through a close reading of one object: An Album of Figures (1747), the earliest dated manuscript album currently held in the Peabody Essex Museum. By investigating this unusual album as a material thing, this talk will ask how production was used to actively frame a regional Guangzhou identity that differentiated it from the other parts of China and spoke to its position as a global center.

Yeewan Koon is Associate Professor and Head of the Fine Arts Department at the University of Hong Kong. She has published numerous works including A Defiant Brush: Su Renshan and the Politics of Painting in 19th Century Guangdong, which examines how an artist produced iconoclastic works in response to the violence that besieged China in the mid-19th century. She is the recipient of several research awards, including a Fulbright Senior Fellowship to conduct research for her new book project on China trade art and the construction of Canton as a portable place. Koon also works in the contemporary art field as a critic and curator. In 2014, she was guest curator of the exhibition It Begins with Metamorphosis: Xu Bing at the Asia Society, Hong Kong Center, and she was also one of the selected curators for the 12th Gwangju Biennale, 2018.