“Art in Smog” benefits from the support of an exceptional team of humanities scholars and filmmakers.

Humanities Scholars

Paul A. Cohen is professor emeritus of history, Wellesley College. He is author of History and Popular Memory: The Power of Story in Moments of Crisis (2014), which reflects his interest in global commonalities in historical narratives. A renowned historian of China, his books include History in Three Keys: The Boxers as Event, Experience, and Myth (1997) and Discovering History in China: American Historical Writing on the Recent Chinese Past (1984). His deep sense of history, and expertise in 19th and 20th century Chinese history, will help add broader significance to our story.

Richard Kraus is professor emeritus of political science, University of Oregon. He is author of The Party and the Arty in China: the New Politics of Culture (2004), which argued that, contrary to popular expectation, the arts in China became less constrained in the 1990s as the Chinese Communist Party advanced its economic agenda. The cultural difficulties he sees are much like those in other countries: tension between art and commerce, understanding the effects of new technology, expanding education, and garnering respect. We will seek his advice on the political and socio-economic climate for artists in contemporary China.

Jie Li is assistant professor of East Asian languages and civilizations, Harvard University. She is a scholar of literary, film, and cultural studies with a particular interest in the influence of the Mao era on contemporary culture. She is co-editor of Red Legacies in China: Cultural Afterlives of the Communist Revolution (forthcoming) and Shanghai Homes: Palimpsests of Private Life (2014). Her keen understanding of Communist legacies on contemporary culture will add depth to our exploration of cultural tensions and change.

Rana Mitter is professor of the history and politics of modern China, University of Oxford, and director of the University of Oxford China Centre. He is author of A Bitter Revolution: China’s Struggle with the Modern World (2004). His research on China’s long quest for modernity and the legacy of war, especially the Cold War and the Sino-Japanese War, will offer historical grounding for examining cultural debates today. His insights on contemporary Chinese nationalism also will be important.

Jerome Silbergeld is the P. Y. and Kinmay W. Tang Professor in Chinese Art, Princeton University, and director of the Tang Center for East Asian Art. He is author of Outside In: Contemporary x Chinese x American Art (2009) and ARTiculations: Undefining Chinese Contemporary Art (2010), among many other books on Chinese art, architecture, film, and photography. His cogent analyses of cultural understandings in art and his humanistic interest in documentary photography and film support our portrayal of our subjects.

Peggy Wang is assistant professor of art history and Asian studies, Bowdoin College. She co-edited Contemporary Chinese Art: Primary Documents (2010) with Wu Hung, when she was a doctoral student at the University of Chicago. She is among a new generation of art history scholars whose research focus is specifically the development of contemporary Chinese art. Her research examines the thinking and transitions in the 1990s when Chinese artists became globally engaged. We look forward to tapping her excellent knowledge of the field, the players, and critical theories.


Lydia Chen, Director, is the creator, researcher, shooter, and editor of this film. Her earlier documentary INNER VISIONS: Avant-Garde Art in China (1993) premiered at the Hawaii International Film Festival, received a Bronze Apple at the National Educational Film and Video Festival, aired on KTEH in San Jose, California, was reviewed in the Journal of Asian Studies, and is distributed to educational markets by Filmakers Library through Alexander Street Press.

Kathryn Dietz, Consulting Producer, brings deep knowledge of the documentary filmmaking world. She was producer and co-producer of a seminal series of China documentaries for public television, with five consecutive films completed over twenty years: China in Revolution: 1911-1949 (1989), The Mao Years: 1949-1976 (1994), Born Under the Red Flag: 1976-1997 (1997), China in the Red (2003), and Young and Restless in China (2008). She was executive director of the Filmmakers Collaborative in the Boston area (2011-2014).

Stephen Maing, Consulting Cinematographer, is an award-winning filmmaker with extensive production experience in China. His award-winning feature documentary High Tech, Low Life (2012) documented two of China’s first dissident citizen-reporters. The film aired in the PBS POV series and received top documentary and cinematography awards at festivals in Boston, Little Rock, Woods Hole, London, and Seoul. He is a fellow of the Sundance Institute’s Documentary Film Program and a grant recipient of the MacArthur Foundation.

One thought on “Team

  1. What an incredible team of fascinating and learned people you have assembled, Lydia. I’m impressed by the breadth of perspectives they represent as well as by their accomplishments. This says a lot about the scope of your project!

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