The Sydney Asian Art Series gathers leading international voices on critical issues in early, modern and contemporary Asian art. In 2020, its focus is art and technology.

To open the series, we welcome scholar Lisa Claypool, who will lecture on the theme of the “technological sublime” in the 1960s work of Chinese painter Fu Baoshi. In conjunction with this lecture, we will be hosting a special screening of Zhao Liang’s acclaimed 2015 film, Behemoth, with a short introduction by Lisa Claypool. 

These are online events. Once you register, you’ll receive a link to join on the morning of the event. Please ensure you have a good internet connection to ensure the best experience for watching and participating.


Screening: Zhao Liang’s Behemoth (2015)
6-7:45pm (AEST) | Wednesday 16 September 2020
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This 2015 film by the contemporary artist and film-maker Zhao Liang uses an experimental documentary form to explore the coal mines of China and Inner Mongolia, and their environmental and human impacts.

Scholar Lisa Claypool describes the film this way:

The terrible mythological vision of the Behemoth — awesome in its strength as it gorges on mountains, its sinews made of stone, bones of iron — takes on disturbing reality in a film of the same name about coal mining by the independent filmmaker and artist Zhao Liang. The camera takes us into coal mines in Inner Mongolia, iron smelting yards, homes of miners, a hospital where black lung is treated, and a ghost city. Loosely structured around the spaces of hell, purgatory, and paradise, and glossed with words drawn from Dante, the filmmaker reflects on ways of seeing the fragility and connectedness of the human body to its environment when that environment, mirroring the Behemoth, is violent and dangerous. Though perhaps it would be more to the point to say that the filmmaker grieves over his subject.


Lecture: The Technological Sublime: An Ink Painter and a Coal Mine in 1960s China
10-11am (AEST) | Thursday 17 September 2020
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Lisa Claypool explores paintings of a mountain dissected into terraces by rails, wires, and excavators (described by the artist Fu Baoshi as a ‘naked mountain’), focusing on the question of how to paint a mountain as it was being exposed to and was disappearing from view. Such a conundrum asks us to reflect on the poetic and scientific realms of lived experience to which art can only gesture. The lecture considers the question: Just what does the painting of a coal mine reveal about the nature of Fu’s encounter with what is hidden beneath a rocky surface – and the technology above it that gets us there? Are there ecocritical lessons we can learn from the artist’s reconciliation of what he calls ‘visual excavation’ and ink painting through the technological sublime?


About the speaker

Lisa Claypool teaches and curates Chinese art at the University of Alberta. She writes about science and art, interculturalism and visuality, and exhibitions in modern and contemporary China. She recently completed her first book manuscript, titled Boundary Forms: Design and Science in Modern China. She is currently curating a forthcoming exhibition, ecoART CHINA, which will be held in 2021.

Presented by

The Sydney Asian Art Series is presented by the University of Sydney’s China Studies Centre, The Power Institute, and VisAsia, with support from the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Image: Fu Baoshi. Flying waterfall at Jingbo Lake 镜泊湖飞泉. Detail. 1962. Hanging scroll, ink and pigment on paper; 117.9 x 70.1 cm. Nanjing Museum.