Yi Gu

Associate Professor



Department of Arts, Culture & Media, UTSC
Department of East Asian Studies, UTSC

Fields of Study

Areas of Interest

  • history of infographics
  • cold war visual culture and post-socialist art
  • photography of Asia
  • politics of aesthetics
  • art and amateurism
  • visual methodologies across disciplines


Yi Gu is an associate professor of modern and contemporary art and visual culture, with a focus on Asia, especially China. Her current research interests lie in the agrarian imaginary and various extractive regimes including those of historical socialism. Her previous work examines epistemic shifts and perception, landscape and nation-building, and Chinese photography. 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 the open-access academic journal Trans Asia Photography and a convening member of the research project “Alternative Collections and Digital Humanities: Twentieth-Century Chinese Art and Visual Culture.”

Selected Publications:

  • “Which East, Whose South: Reflections on Art of the Socialist Bloc.” On Our Time no. 2 Constellations of Intimacies (2021).
  • Open-Air Painting and Chinese Ways of Seeing. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2020. ISBN 9780674244443
  • “We Love Peace: Photographic Effect and Chinese People’s Volunteer Force Soldiers in the Korean War.” The Chinese Historical Review 25, no. 2
    (2018): 196–207.
  • “The ‘Peasant Problem’ and Time in Contemporary Chinese Art.” Representations 136 no. 1 (2016): 54–76.
  • “Photography and Its Chinese Origins,” in Photography and its Origins, ed. Tanya Sheehan and Andres Zervigon (New York: Routledge, 2015), 157–70.
  • “What’s in a Name? Photography and the Reinvention of Visual Truth in China, 1840-1911.” The Art Bulletin, vol. 95 no.1 (2013): 120-138.

Gu Chinese Ways of Seeing and Open-Air Painting


PhD, Brown University, 2009