Drawing Lines, Spinning Time: Textile Histories at a River’s End

Drawing Lines, Spinning Time: Textile Histories at a River’s End

A research project initiated by Ho Rui An and Zian Chen

in collaboration with Feng Haoxin, Liew Xiao Theng, Sun Jiyuan, Wang Ruohan, Xiong Xin, Yan Jiayue, Zeng Yuting, Zhang Tianyu, Zhang Yilin, and Zhou Feiyang

Community Center East Wing (CCTE)

Duke Kunshan University

Exhibition: 22 November – 8 December 2023

Public program: 22 – 24 November 2023

Organized by: DKUNST Art on Campus

Supported by: Division of Arts and Humanities | Humanities Research Center, Duke Kunshan University

Drawing Lines, Spinning Time: Textile Histories at a River’s End, traces an over-hundred-year history of the Chinese textile industry and its many extensions since the emergence of industrial capitalism within the Yangtze River Delta region. Initiated by Ho Rui An and Zian Chen, the exhibition and public program draws upon materials gathered over a six-month process of fieldwork, archival research, and workshops organized as part of Duke Kunshan University’s (DKU) DKUNST Art on Campus program and with the participation of DKU undergraduates. The program at DKU follows the first large-scale public presentation of the research at Ming Contemporary Art Museum in Shanghai earlier this year.

The exhibition is organized into two sections, each providing a distinctive artistic framework to probe into the historical development of the textile industry in the region. The first, “Drawing Lines”, focuses on material culture and draws upon cartographic and archival methods to trace the networks of labor, technology, and capital that connect the industrial centers of the region to its agrarian peripheries and beyond. The second, “Spinning Time”, centers the embodied experience of labor and its representations by examining films set in textile mills and real-life accounts by retired textile workers. Through the public program, the objects and images on display are further articulated through a curated film program and one-day live program that includes a lecture, guided tour, and a mapping exercise.

The DKUNST Art on Campus program is curated by Prof. Zairong Xiang.

Public Program

Wednesday, 22 November

1700 Exhibition opening

Location: 1F CCTE

1900 Screening and discussion: Huang Baomei

Location: Performance Cafe

A rarely seen gem made by the renowned Third Generation Chinese director Xie Jin, Huang Baomei (1958) is a docudrama based on the real-life experiences of the national model worker of the same name. Set at Shanghai No. 17 Cotton Mill, the film focuses on how the workers collectively resolve the problems posed by their aging machines as they strive for a technical breakthrough. As an exemplar of the genre of “artistic documentary” advocated by Premier Zhou Enlai during the Great Leap Forward, the film is known for its collective scripting process and predominantly female cast of actual cotton mill workers playing themselves.

The screening will be followed by a discussion with Prof. Qian Zhu.

Note: Due to the lack of international distribution, the film is only available in Mandarin without subtitles.

Thursday, 23 November

1900 Screening and discussion: A Single Spark

Location: Performance Cafe

A Single Spark (1959) is a Shanghainese opera film based on a violent confrontation between indentured laborers and their managers at the Japanese-owned Naigaiwata Company No. 7 Cotton Mill in 1925. Reflecting the dominant tropes of Chinese socialist cinema of the period, the film follows the trials and tribulations of a villager fighting to extricate her daughter from the despotic system of contract labor as well as the collective action taken by her fellow workers that eventually catalyzed the May Thirtieth Movement.

The screening will be followed by a discussion with Prof. Kim Gordon.

Note: Due to the lack of international distribution, the film is only available in Shanghainese with Chinese subtitles.

Friday, 24 November

1400 Screening and discussion: Red Skirt Popular in the Street

Location: CCT E1011

Set in the fictitious Shanghai-based Dafeng Cotton Mill, Red Skirt Popular on the Street (1984) follows the story of an enterprising model worker as she navigates the challenges of young adult life, from workplace conflicts to choosing what clothes to wear on her days off. A landmark of the early years of the Reform era, the film shows the growing consumer consciousness among the working class amidst the transition to the market economy, as best observed in the spellbinding array of colors seen in their sartorial choices—a reflection of the fashion trends being introduced into the country through trade fairs and catwalks at the time.

The screening will be followed by a discussion with Prof. Andrew Field.

Note: Due to the lack of international distribution, the film is only available in Mandarin without subtitles.

1630 Guided tour

Location: 1F CCTE

1700 Mapping exercise: Object and Network

Location: 1F CCTE

Using a selection of objects as its starting point, this student-led cartographic exercise attempts to connect the lines between different objects, people, and sites across the Yangtze River Delta region as a way to visually represent the material networks that constitute the region’s modern textile industry.

1730 Discussion moderated by Prof. Zairong Xiang

Location: 1F CCTE

1800 Break and refreshments

Location: 1F CCTE

1900 Lecture: Spinning Time

Ho Rui An and Zian Chen

Location: Performance Cafe

In this lecture, the networked lines of labor, technology, and capital that make up one river delta region flow into another river delta region as the textile histories along the Yangtze River are woven with those of its southern double: the Pearl River. Drawing upon their research across Shanghai, Nantong, Hong Kong and Guangzhou, Ho Rui An and Zian Chen construct a timeline that inquires into the displacements and returns that characterize China’s modern textile history as much as it reflects on the time of history itself.

BOYS Exhibition: I Am No Different Than You

Exhibition Name: I Am No Different Than You

Date: 22nd – 27th March

Venue: Water Pavilion

“BOYS” Curation Statement

I Am No Different Than You is an exhibition that features one of Daniel Adams’ photography projects titled “BOYS” created in 2020. Adams is a conceptual portrait photographer based in Malaysia. Through his lens, we explore the letter G from the term LGBTQ+. The LGBTQ+ community is an umbrella term for gender, romantic, sexual, and queer minorities. This represents members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning community. It additionally includes many other subcultures like pansexual, asexual, and pangender. In Malaysia where expression of sexual orientation is restricted, we see those brave souls who fight back and show who they are. The gay men represented in this series have fun colorful makeup that highlights their facial features. Each featured personality is designated their own color highlighting their prominent features and matching their auras. The bright rainbow colors bring out the uniqueness of each individual, yet they look no different than you and I. BOYS is a powerful series paying tribute to those who are fighting to truly be themselves. Continue reading “BOYS Exhibition: I Am No Different Than You”


2020年伊始,人文研究中心便迎来了三位来自世界不同角落的客人:他们分别是美国杜克大学文化人类学教授Charles Piot,美国杜克大学纪实摄影师、摄影记者、人道主义公共卫生工作者Fati Abubakar Gangaran, 以及南非开普敦大学历史学副教授Shamil Jeppie。他们应人文研究中心的邀请,作为昆杜非洲主题活动周《非洲:移民,文化,冲突》的主讲人,为昆山杜克全体师生带来了一次关于旨在促进其对非洲大陆古老文明与现状,以及全球化社会下的移民浪潮了解的难忘体验。 Continue reading “非洲:移民,文化,冲突—2020昆杜非洲主题活动周精彩回顾”