Winnie Wong

Research Expertise and Interest

labor and creativity, Modern Art, contemporary art, contemporary art and law, China studies

Research Description

Winnie Wong is an associate professor in the Department of Rhetoric.  Her research is concerned with the history and present of artistic authorship, with a focus on interactions between China and the West. Her theoretical interests revolve around the critical distinctions of high and low, true and fake, art and commodity, originality and imitation, and, conceptual and manual labor, and thus her work focuses on objects and practices at the boundary of these categories. Her first book, Van Gogh on Demand: China and the Readymade (University of Chicago Press 2014, Joseph Levenson Book Prize 2015), is a study of Dafen village in China, the world’s largest production center for oil-on-canvas painting. The book is an ethnography of the encounters between artisanal painters and global conceptual artists. A forthcoming book, The Many Names of Anonymity, studies the nameless and "nameful" portraitists of Guangzhou (Canton), in the 18th and early 19th centuries when the city served as the sole port of trade between China and Europe. 

With Mary Ann O’Donnell and Jonathan Bach, she co-edited Learning from Shenzhen: China’s Post-Mao Experiment from Special Zone to Model City (UChicago Press 2017). With Jing Wang, she co-edited a special issue of positions: asia critique on visual culture and digital dissent (CELJ 2015 Best Special Issue Award). Since 2015, with Amy Adler, Peter Karol, and Martha Buskirk, she has organized several workshops on art and law, primarily thinking beyond copyright. She has published on Smallness in Hong Kong Arton forgery in the Libraryshort stories in response to Arne de Boever’s Against Aesthetic Exceptionalism, and essays on the Chinese-Canadian painter Matthew Wong. Currently she is interested in women forgers, botanical illustrations, and unfinished encyclopedias. She sometimes inhabit the persona of fictional editors, and am collecting their work in a book of conjectural histories, titled Typical Artists: Chinese Biographies of Western Geniuses.

She teaches undergraduate courses on visual culture, visual rhetoric, and interpretation, including classes on the Theory of the Copy, Rhetoric of the Image, Archives and Bureaucracies, and Poetry and Speculative Fiction. She teaches graduate seminars that investigate the methodological intersections of Art and Ethnography, Art and Law, Theory and Practice, History of Art and History of Science. She especially welcomes graduate students who want to work with me on the art, visual culture, and urbanism of Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, the many Chinese diasporas, the post-socialist international, or other contexts of overlapping imperialisms.

As an undergraduate, she was an interdisciplinary Senior Fellow of Dartmouth College where she wrote her thesis on Public Space and Public Protest in postcolonial Hong Kong. She obtained her Master’s of Science from the History, Theory and Criticism of Architecture and Art program at MIT where she wrote her thesis on Product Placement and the Hollywood Film. She then worked in the curatorial department of the Art of Europe at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and directed the curatorial program of a non-profit, all-volunteer, alternative and new media exhibition space in Cambridge, MA, before obtaining her PhD at the History, Theory and Criticism of Architecture and Art program at MIT. Prior to joining Berkeley in 2013, she was a Junior Fellow of the Harvard Society of Fellows.

Education: PhD (History, Theory, and Criticism), MIT

She teaches undergraduate courses on Rhetorical Interpretation, Art and Authorship, Visual Rhetoric, Rhetoric of Performance, and Rhetorical Places, and graduate courses in the Rhetoric of the Image. Topics she has taught include “Theory of the Copy,” “China in the Western Imagination,” and “The Factory (Before Marx and After Warhol).” In the Spring of 2015, she co-taught with Margaret Crawford the Global Urban Humanities research studio documented on this website: Art+Village+City in the Pearl River Delta. Work from the studio was exhibited at the Shanghai Biennale 2015 and at Wurster Hall on Berkeley campus.

Prior to joining the Rhetoric department, she did her postdoctoral work as a Junior Fellow of the Harvard Society of Fellows, and obtained her PhD from the History, Theory and Criticism of Architecture and Art program at MIT.

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