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Seeing China: Photographic Views and Viewpoints

Main Gallery
January 19 - August 30, 2015

"Seeing China: Photographic Views and Viewpoints" presents the work of six contemporary, non-Chinese photographers, and stereographs, from the MSU Museum’s collection, made in China between 1901 and 1905. The exhibit challenges viewers to consider the effects of environmental change and political responsibility, rapid urbanization and economic expansion, human and civil rights, and cultural diversity and change.

What is a sterograph?
A stereograph is made by attaching two nearly identical photographic images to a card. When viewed with a stereoscope, the left eye sees one picture and the right eye sees the other one, which creates a three-dimensionality (3D) effect. A popular form of entertainment and education between the 1850s and the 1930s, stereograph viewing allowed people to travel the world while never leaving home. Stereographs of China were produced in increasing numbers during the first years of the twentieth century. The stereographs in the exhibit chart China's historic change after the Boxer Rebellion (1900), a peasant uprising that caused European powers and the United States to intervene—and to remain—in China.  When compared to the contemporary photographic images in the exhibit, the stereographic views help us better understand the great transformation China has experienced over the last century. 

Image of sterograph

Contemporary photographers included in the exhibit:
Laurie Lambrecht’s lyrical photographs of trees in the Imperial Palace gardens are reminiscent of traditional Chinese landscape art. Brad Temkin presents the ancient Great Wall of China through the haze that almost engulfs it. Fredrik Marsh focuses on man’s imprint on the landscape exploring the city of Guangzhou during a time of rapid transition from the traditional way of life to the new. Steven Benson’s The Cost of Power in China: The Three Gorges Dam and the Yangtze River Valley documents how the construction of the “largest concrete object on the planet” forced more than four million people to vacate their ancestral homes and disrupted the lives of 30 million people who lived in the reservoir region—a reservoir larger than Lake Michigan. Philipp Scholtz Rittermann explored China’s economic expansion by following the “Emperor’s River,” a canal that extends over 1,000 miles between Beijing and Hangzhou finding “a breathtaking, fast-paced collision of antiquity and modernity … and the strangest of bedfellows—unbridled capitalism and communism.” And Luis Delgado’s Cuentos Chinos Attributed to Dr. Achoo uses “reversed images to emphasize the dichotomy between the ancient and the gadget-driven eras.”

"Seeing China" is presented as part of a thematic year at Michigan State University, The China Experience: An MSU Exploration of Arts & Culture, with dynamic programming through events and dialogues held throughout the year focusing on the arts and culture in Greater China. The China Experience: An MSU Exploration of Arts & Culture explores China through diverse activities including Chinese art, film, music, performances, lectures, events, and exhibits.  Campus and community visitors alike can explore a country that is rich in history and contemporary art, and that, in many respects, lays at the forefront of social change.

photograph by Fredrik Marsh, "Guangdong Province, People's Republic of China," 2008, 24" x 30"

© photograph by Fredrik Marsh, "Guangdong Province,
People's Republic of China," 2008, 24" x 30"




January 19 – 4:00 p.m.
opening reception & student performance
in conjuction with Martin Luther King, Jr. Day at Michigan State University

February 21 – 11:30 a.m.
11:30 a.m. - Curator-led tour
12:30 a.m. - special Chinese language tour by MSU students
1:30 p.m. - Curator-led tour

February 23 – 7:00 p.m.
Philipp Rittermann
Photographer talk: "Emperor's River: Photographing Along China's Grand Canal"
MSU Museum Auditorium

March 23 – 12:30 p.m.
Shirley T. Wajda, MSU Museum Curator of History
Curator talk: "China Through the Stereoscope"
MSU Museum Auditorium

March 30 – 7:00 p.m.
Luis Delgado-Qualtrough 
Artist Talk: "Bauhaus in a Barrel"
MSU Main Library North Conference Room (W449)

April 13 – 3:00 p.m.
Steven Benson 
Photographer Talk: "The Cost of Power in China: The Three Gorges Dam and the Yangtze River Valley"
College of Communication Arts and Sciences Room 145

Made possible, in part, with funds from the MSU Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives and MSU Asian Studies Center

'Seeing China' in the news:
Listen to MSU Professor and co-curator, Howard Bossen talk about "Seeing China" on WKAR 

Read a feature in Art Daily

Read a feature in the Knight Center for Environmental Journalism