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In “Toward a ‘Bent Ornamentalitism’: Hung Liu's Re-presentations of Historical Photographs,” Zihan Feng, PhD student in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures in Arts & Sciences, discusses the Chinese-born American contemporary artist Hung Liu’s reuse of historical portrait photographs of Chinese women in her prints and assemblages. This talk explores how Liu strategically juxtaposes historical portraits with varied imagery to reconceive distortions of female bodies—in particular, bound feet—as not merely historical evidence of gender-based violence but a “bent and ornamental” form of being against the patriarchal norm and Western ethnographic gazes. In resonance with scholar Anne Anlin Cheng’s rumination that the “flesh” of racialized and gendered Asian women often survives through “synthetic, ornamental personhood,” Feng discusses how re-presentations of historical images of racialized and gendered subjects negotiate the realms of violence and aesthetics and interrogate the intricate association between natural bodies and the modern notion of subjectivity and autonomy.  

Free and open to the public. Registration is requested.

ASL Interpretation

American Sign Language interpretation can be arranged for public events upon request. This service is free, but we ask for two weeks' notice. Requests can be made by contacting 

About the Speaker

Zihan Feng is a doctoral student of Chinese language and literature in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis. She earned her BA in Chinese literature from Peking University and MA in critical Asian humanities from Duke University. Her research interests include modern Chinese literature and culture, East Asian popular culture, body theory, and the question of materiality in the age of global capitalism. She also studies amateur performance practices of East Asian cultures across the world. Her research has been published in Post45 Contemporaries and will appear in tba: The Journal of Art, Media, and Visual Culture

New Perspectives 

New Perspectives talks are opportunities to learn more about the Museum’s collection from emerging scholars. The talks are given by graduate students in Arts & Sciences and the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts and focus on one or more works from the collection, often aligning with the students’ own expertise and scholarly interests.  

Image Credit

Hung Liu (Chinese, 1948–2021), Bonsai, 1992. Photolithograph from two plates on Rives BFK paper, 9/24, 22 1/2 x 30 in. Gift of Island Press (formerly the Washington University School of Art Collaborative Print Workshop), 1993.