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The Phantom Landscape of Jiangnan: The Politics of Topography in Stage Sisters (dir. Xie Jin 1964)

September 29, 2021 - 4:30pm to 6:00pm
Hybrid event - Public via Zoom
Mia Liu

Mia Yinxing Liu, associate professor at California College of the Arts in History of Art and Visual Culture, discusses the representation of Jiangnan landscape in Xie Jin’s film Stage Sisters (1964). For Chinese filmmakers consciously exploring traditional aesthetics, Jiangnan, a favored site of literati painting, became the film location and setting of choice. Stage Sisters’ cinematic interpretation of Jiangnan landscape is firstly a formal experiment, as it uses the water canals in the Jiangnan region in a very similar way to that in literati landscape paintings: they are space dividers, framing devices for time, and extensions of emotive space. On the other hand, Jiangnan was also the countryside of Shanghai in the binarism of city vs. countryside in both paradigms of modernist art and Chinese revolution historiography. Like the opera sisters’ trip from the countryside to Shanghai and back through the water canals, the Party’s own story is retold and re-evaluated in the film. By retracing the waterways back towards the “primary site” of the revolution, some old ghosts of history that were washed away by current politics and official narrative are re-invoked, and the misty waters of Jiangnan, together with its music of local women’s opera, become the haunting tentacles of history, especially in the political reality of 1964.

RSVP REQUIRED. This is a hybrid event, with in-person attendance restricted to Stanford affiliates (ID holders) ONLY ( Knight Building Rm 201). Members of the public can join us for this talk via Zoom. 

About the speaker

Mia Yinxing Liu is associate professor at California College of the Arts in History of Art and Visual Culture, and currently a Getty Fellow at the Getty Research Institute. She received her PhD in Art History in 2013 from the University of Chicago, where she was also trained in film and media studies. Her research interests focus on inter-medium dialogues and dynamics in modern Chinese art and visual culture, such as paintings, cinema, photography, and optical devices. 

Event Sponsor: 
Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, Center for East Asian Studies
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