HE Yining is a Chinese curator and researcher in visual arts based in the UK and China. Yining is a graduate of the London College of Communication, University of the Arts London. Her doctoral research at CCVA, BCU is centred on the decolonial turn of Chinese contemporary art practice in the post-2008s period, examining the links between contemporary art practices, the impacts of the Colonial Matrix of Power on Chinese histories, and current decolonial art discourse.
Yining He is a Chinese curator and researcher in visual arts based in the UK and China. In curatorial practices, she specializes in uncovering contemporary visual arts practices and weaving them within a dual vision of politics and visual culture. She has curated more than 40 theme exhibitions for museums, art institutions, and photography festivals across Eurasia, including the 8th Singapore Photography Festival: Future Known as Unpredicted (Singapore, 2022), BredaPhoto 2020: China Imagined (Breda, the NL) and the 3rd Beijing Photo Biennale: Troubled Intention Ahead (Beijing, 2018). She won the OCAT Institute's inaugural "Research-based Curatorial Project" for her research “Picturing Histories: Historical Narratives in Contemporary Chinese Photography." and nominated for the 14th AAC Art China "Curator of the Year Award" for this research project exhibition titled "The Abode of Anamnesis."
From an academic perspective, Yining has written, edited, and participated in numerous books, including the Routledge Companion to Photography, Representation, and Social Justice (Routledge, 2023), a series of exhibition publications of The Port and the Image (2022/2019/2017), The Abode of Anamnesis (China Nationality Culture Press, 2021), A World Histories of Women Photographers (Thames and Hudson, 2022 /Editions Textual, 2021), Routledge Companion to Photography and Visual Culture (Routledge, 2018) and Photography in the British Classroom (China Nationality Culture Press,2015), among others. She is the editor of Floating Island: Journal of Photography and Visual Culture (Est. 2016), and she served as a member of the peer review panel of OVER Journal.
Yining's paper has been published or forthcoming in the New Art Museum Studies (Vol.2, 2023), Photography and Culture (Routledge, 2022), Journal of Taipei Fine Arts Museum (2021), Photographies (Vol.14, 2021-Issue 1), and OVER Journal (Vol.1, 2020). Meanwhile, Yining has published hundreds of articles in art, photography, and visual culture magazines in China and Internationally, including FOAM Magazine, Aperture Photobook Review, IMA, ArtForum, Art World, and China Photography Magazine. Apart from writing, she also devoted herself to translating the history and theory of art and photography books into Chinese. It includes Art and Photography (David Campany ed.), Artists Who Make Books (Andrew Roth, Philip E.Aarons and Claire Lehmann ed.), Photography and Travel (by Graham Smith), Perspectives on Place (by J.A.P. Alexander), The Photobook: A History Volume II and III (Martin Parr and Gerry Badger ed.), among others.
Yining has been a guest lecturer at over a dozen universities, including SOAS University of London, London College of Communication, UAL, the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Xiamen University, Nanjing University, and Tianjin Academy of Fine Arts over the years, to name a few. Yining has also worked as a jury member for domestic/international photography and art awards, including the World Photo Press Contest 2023 (NL), OCAT "2022 Research-Based Curatorial Project" (China), 2022/2021 Jimei Arles Curatorial Award of Photography and Moving Image (China), 2021/2020 Photo Vague (Italy), 2019 A New Gaze (Switzerland), 2019 Reference Asia Awards (Korea), 2019 Youth Art 100 (China), Top 20 China Contemporary Photography (China), 2016 New Talent Award (China), FORMAT International Photography Festival Open Award (UK), and Three Shadows Photography Award (China).
Selected Curatorial Projects:
- 2022 Towards Evenings: My Heart, Chen Zhe Solo exhibition, Galleri Image, Aarhus, Denmark
- 2022 The 8th Singapore International Photography Festival: Future known as unpredicted, co-curating with John Tung and the festival team, Emerald Hill and other venues, Singapore
- 2022 NL Imagined, co-curating with Ruben Lundgren, Shanghai Center of Photography, Shanghai / Three Shadows Photography Center, Beijing
- 2022 The Port and the Image III: The Echoes of the Port, China Port Museum, Ningbo
- 2021 Imaging Our Futures, Photofairs Shanghai public program, Shanghai Exhibition Center
- 2020 China Imagined, BredaPhoto 2020, co-curated with Ruben Lundgren, Grote Kerk, Breda, Netherland
- 2020 Between the Mountains, Hills and Lakes, Design Society, Shenzhen / Modern Art Base， Shanghai / Three Shadows Photography Center， Beijing／Gaotai Gallery, Urumqi
- 2019 61069019: boooom!, BROWNIE / PROJECT, Shanghai
- 2019 The Disappearing Harbor: Between Time, Space and Memory, The Port and the Image II, China Port Museum, Ningbo
- 2019 Contemporary Chinese Photobooks: Visual Narrative in Paper and Beyond,” CAA Art Museum, Hangzhou
- 2019 The Abode of Anamnesis, OCAT Institute, Beijing
- 2018 Inside the Labyrinth of Knossos, Lianzhou Foto, Lianzhou
- 2018 The 3rd Beijing International Photography Biennale: Troubled Intension Ahead: Confusing Public and Private, CAFAM, Beijing / Beizhen Art Center, Beizhen
- 2017 The Port and the Image: Documenting China's Harbor Cities, China Port Museum, Ningbo
- 2016 A Fictional Narrative Turn, 2016 JIMEI × ARLES International Photography Festival: Xiamen
- 2016 Chinese Photobooks, Photobook Week Aarhus, Aarhus, Denmark
- 2016 Elemental Landscape, Tabula Rasa Gallery, Beijing
- 2015 ____ in the Room, LCC MA Photography 2014 graduates Show, V ART Centre, Shanghai
- 2015 Mother River, Yan Wang Preston Photography Exhibition, UK-China Year of Cultural Exchange, curating with Zelda Cheatle, Chongqing China Three Gorges Museum, Chongqing, China
- 2015 5o Contemporary Chinese Photobooks 2009－2014, Format International Photography Festival, Derby, UK
Areas of Expertise
- Contemporary Chinese photography
- Decolonial art practices
- Transnational cultural curatorial practices
Challenging the Decolonial Art Discourse: The Decolonial Turn in Contemporary Chinese Art
Deep-rooted in the geopolitical contexts of the 20th century, decolonisation referred to the withdrawal of colonial power from former colonies and the acquisition of political or economic independence by such colonies. Decoloniality, however, as both an analytical and a programmatic approach, is said to move “away and beyond the post-colonial” (Mignolo, 2021) and has impacted the contemporary art world in almost every aspect—art practices, art history writing, curatorial practices, and institutional operations—providing “a radical shell to familiar ideas and practices of multiculturalism that operate well within the comfort zone” (Turk and Young, 2012).
Over the last decade, an increasing number of artists connect personal experiences with global geopolitical dynamics and respond to decolonial art discourse by employing various artistic languages and perspectives. As a curator and researcher raised and working in China, I engaged in a radical art network where many artists' practices referred to China's complex colonial past and experiences. However, for various reasons, decolonial discourses are barely discussed in contemporary Chinese art or are limited to a focus on the institutional level, thus urgently requiring researchers to explore their connections further. Therefore, I positioned my timely, critical, and interdisciplinary research on the decolonial turn of Chinese contemporary art by undertaking an intersectional study of art practices, decolonial theory, and its art discourses.
Aiming to provide a unique Chinese perspective on the global decolonial turn, my research on Challenging the Decolonial Art Discourse: The Decolonial Turn in Contemporary Chinese Art will situate decolonial art practices in China in a critical debate and attempt to answer the following questions:
- What links exist between decolonial art discourse and Chinese contemporary art practices, and how can current decolonial theories be interpreted, challenged, and transcended in the Chinese context?
- How can the decolonial turn in Chinese contemporary visual arts be defined (theorised)? What difficulties do art practitioners encounter concerning this radical discourse?
- What methods do decolonial art practices based on Chinese issues offer to the global decolonial turn?
Through a mixed–methods approach to knowledge (theory and practice) that attempts to consider multiple viewpoints, perspectives, positions, and standpoints , my research will use digital archiving as an overarching method. It will engage further with cognitive mapping, thick descriptions of art practices and local knowledge, and other research methodologies (literature review, field trip, case study) related to the visual arts and humanities.
My multi-disciplinary research aims to interpret, challenge, and transcend current decolonial art discourse by drawing on the rich practices of contemporary Chinese art. Moreover, I intend to provide a unique perspective from China on the global decolonial turn, extend current debates, and propose new study models regarding contemporary Chinese art practice and decolonial theory.
- 2023 (forthcoming) New Art Museum Studies, Vol.2 (Essay: Curatorship as an Exploratory Research Method: The Abode of Anamnesis in Focus), Guangxi Normal University Press, Guilin, China
- 2022 Photography and Culture (Research Article: Extension of Meanings: Text and Image in the works of Contemporary Chinese Photographic Artists), Routledge: London and New York
2021 Journal of Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Vol.42 (Review: Photo Archives as Photobook Works: The Echoes of Old Photos in Chinese Contemporary Photobook Publishing, Taipei Fine Arts Museum: Taipei
- 2021 Photographies Vol.14 (Essay: The writing, transformation, and rewriting of photo archives in Chinese photography from the 1940s to date), Taylor Francis: Abingdon, Oxfordshire
Selected Featured Publications:
- 2022 (forthcoming) The Routledge Companion to Photography, Representation and Social Justice (In conversation: Working Document for Discussion of Non-Western Concepts and Translation problems for Terminology in the field of Photography and Image Culture” / Research Article: Picturing New Geopolitical Landscapes through the Works of Five Chinese Artists), Routledge: London and New York
- 2022 A World History of Women Photographers, co-author, Luce Lebart and Marie Robert ed., Thames and Hudson, UK
- 2022 The Port and The Image II: Echoes of the Port, eds, China Nationality Culture Publishing Press: Beijing
- 2022 Floating Island: Photography and Visual Culture Studies Vol.1, Chief-Editor, JZZP: Ningbo, China
- 2021 Rooms Within China, (Epilogue: "Rooms Within the Global Village"), Published by Tofu Collective: Copenhagen
- 2021 The Abode of Anamnesis (Editorial and essay: Picturing Histories: Historical Narrative in Contemporary Chinese Photography), Nationality Culture Publishing House: Beijing
- 2021 Curator Conversations (In conversation with Tim Clark), 1000 Words: London
- 2020 Une historie mondiale des femmes photographers, co-author, Luce Lebart and Marie Robert ed., Editions Textuel: Paris
- 2020 China Imagined, co-edit with Ruben Lundgren, Eriskay Connection: Breda
- 2020 OVER Journal (Essay: The Virtual Survival: On Contemporary Art in Post-COVID China), PhotoIreland: Dublin
- 2019 The Port and The Image II: The Disappearing Harbor, eds, China Nationality Culture Publishing Press: Beijing
- 2019 The Photobook Review #016, Spring 2019 (Essay: Bees & The Bearable: Yining He on Chen Zhe), Aperture: New York
- 2018 The Routledge Companion to Photography and Visual Culture (Essay: The Representation of Landscape in Contemporary Chinese Photography) Routledge: London
- 2017 The Port and The Image: Documenting China's Habor Cities, eds. Shanghai Culture Publishing House: Shanghai
- 2017 Landscape Geography (Essay: A Virtual Journey: Landscape Photography and Geographical Cognition), China Posts Telecom Press: Beijing
- 2016 Photography in the British Classroom, Monograph, Nationality Photographic Art Publishing House, Beijing
Selected Translated Books:
- 2023（forthcoming) The Photobook: A History volume II, China Photographic Publishing House, Beijing
- 2023（forthcoming)The Photobook: A History volume III, China Photographic Publishing House, Beijing
- 2023（forthcoming) Artists who Make Books, China Photographic Publishing House, Beijing
- 2023（forthcoming) Art and Photography, Edited by David Campany, China Photographic Publishing House, Beijing
- 2021 The Routledge Companion to Photography and Visual Culture, China Posts and Telecommunication Press, Beijing, China
- 2021 Perspectives on Place: Theory and Practice in Landscape Photography, Zhejiang Photographic Press, Hangzhou
- 2016 Photography and Travel, Graham Smith, China Photographic Publishing House, Beijing