Situating the Frontier: When People, Spaces, Objects and Ideas Come Together (feat. Prof. Yi Gu)

When and Where

Monday, September 18, 2023 10:00 am to 12:00 pm
North House
1 Devnonshire Place, Toronto


Nikita Yingqian Cai



Over the past decade, as Chief Curator of Times Museum, Nikita Yingqian Cai has been focusing on curating a network of people, spaces, objects, and ideas in the region of the Pearl River Delta-a frontier of contemporary art in China.

Cai will present the research-based projects she initiated at Times Museum, and share her experiences in how artistic expressions and practices are translated, fabricated and contextualized in the curatorial process. She will also map a variety of human and non-human actors, such as labor, virus, river, port, island, plant etc., in the forming and relocating of a frontier-where the region transformed from an agricultural frontier to a frontier of “Reform and Open” in the 1990s, and subsequently redistributes its labor-intensive manufacturing resources and extracting capital to the southern of the world. By inserting artworks, artistic concepts, and investigations into already existing conditions and setting up a friction between them, shadowed context repressed by the developmental mentality is activated and may subsequently change what we think it is all about. In this sense, the curatorial incubates imaginations to blur boundaries and categorizations, thus challenge their constraining powers.


Nikita Yingqian Cai is Deputy Director and Chief Curator of Times Museum. She has curated exhibitions such as Times Heterotopia Trilogy (2011, 2014, 2017), Jiang Zhi: If This is a Man (2012), Roman Ondák: Storyboard (2015), Big Tail Elephants: One Hour, No Room, Five Shows (2016), Pan Yuliang: A Journey to Silence (Villa Vassilieff in Paris and Guangdong Times Museum, 2017), Omer Fast: The Invisible Hand (2018), Zhou Tao: The Ridge in the Bronze Mirror (2019), Neither Black/Red/Yellow Nor Woman (Times Art Center Belin, 2019), Candice Lin: Pigs and Poison (2021), and One song is very much like another and the boat is always from afar (2021). She initiated the para-curatorial series in 2012 and launched “All the Way South” research network in 2016. She was awarded the Asian Cultural Council Fellowship in 2019.

Discussant: Yi Gu is an Associate Professor of modern and contemporary art and visual culture, with a focus on Asia especially China.Her research interests include cold war visual culture and post-socialist art, comparative media studies, Chinese photography history and contemporary photography in Asia, politics of aesthetics, data visualization, and visual methodologies across disciplines. Her book Chinese Ways of Seeing and Open-Air Painting (Harvard University Press Asia Center, 2020) points out an ocular turn of China’s twentieth century as a foundation for a revisionist history of modern Chinese art. She is currently completing a manuscript on socialist data visualization and China's contemporary Digital Countryside initiative. She is a co-editor of open-access academic journal Trans Asia Photography and a convening member of the research project “Recalibrating Postwar Chinese Art: Digital Humanities and Alternative Archives.”

Chair: Tong Lam is an Associate Professor in the Department of Historical Studies and the Graduate Department of History and Director of the Dr. David Chu Program in Asia-Pacific Studies at the Asian Institute. His current book-length study employs lenses of media studies, environmentalism, and science and technology studies (STS) to examine the politics and poetics of mobilization in China’s special zones in the socialist and postsocialist eras. As a visual artist, Lam has utilized his lens-based work to uncover hidden evidence of state- and capital-precipitated violence—both fast and slow—across various contexts. At present, his research-based visual projects particularly delve into the intersection between technology and military violence, as well as the landscapes of industrial and postindustrial ruination. 

Sponsor: Dr. David Chu Program in Asia Pacific Studies, Asian Institute

For more information, please visit the event website.

Situation the Frontier Poster 2023


Dr. David Chu Program in Asia Pacific Studies, Asian Institute


1 Devnonshire Place, Toronto