Yi Gu

Associate Professor
Department of Arts, Culture & Media
University of Toronto Scarborough




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 a Digital Humanities project, “Visualizing Modern China Data Collective.”

Research Interests:

  • Modern and contemporary Chinese art
  • History of infographics
  • Cold War visual culture and post-socialist art
  • Photography of Asia
  • Politics of aesthetics
  • Art and amateurism
  • Visual methodologies across disciplines


BA, M.A., PhD (Brown)

Awards and Grants:

  • McLuhan Centre of Culture and Technology Working Group Grant, 2020 (as co-convener with Julie Yujie Chen)
  • SSHRC Insight Development Grant, 2020 (as co-applicant with Analays Alvarez Hernandez and Maria Silina)
  • Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation Publication Subsidy Grant, 2018 Connaught New Researcher Fellowship, 2015-2016


  • Chinese Ways of Seeing and Open-Air Painting. Harvard University Asia Center, 2020.
  • “Which East, Whose South: Reflections on Art of the Socialist Bloc.” On Our Time, no. 2 Constellations of Intimacies, 2021, https://www.timesmuseum.org/en/journal/floating-constellation/which-east....
  • “We Love Peace: Photographic Effect and Chinese People’s Volunteer Force Soldiers in the Korean War.” The Chinese Historical Review, vol. 25, no. 2, 2018, pp. 196–207.
  • “The ‘Peasant Problem’ and Time in Contemporary Chinese Art.” Representations, vol. 136, no. 1, Nov. 2016, pp. 54–76.
  • “What’s in a Name? Photography and the Reinvention of Visual Truth in China, 1840-1911.” The Art Bulletin, vol. 95, no. 1, 2013, pp. 120–38.

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