The Newsletter 93 Autumn 2022

IIAS fellow in the spotlight: Pao-Yi Yang

Pao-Yi Yang

IIAS Research Cluster: Asian Heritages
1 March – 31 July 2022

I embarked on my PhD journey in Leiden in late 2014, and it brought me to the coruscating world of museum storytelling. After I completed my PhD, I started my fellowship with IIAS in Spring 2022, with the aim of revising my thesis into a monograph. The alley next to the building of IIAS is the same one in front of my previous office in Huizinga building of Leiden University; hence, doing the fellowship here really felt like a homecoming.

As the initial result of converting my thesis into formal publications, I have contributed a chapter to an edited volume, Exhibiting East Asian Art in a Global Context, which is set to be published in Spring 2023 by the University of Chicago Press. This article explores the shifting meanings of Ming and Qing porcelain—from decorative art serving Dutch self-fashioning to fine art with its own aesthetic and art-historical values—in the Rijksmuseum’s changing display schemes between the late 1890s and the 1950s. This time period captures how the Rijksmuseum’s collection history and the particular display aesthetics of the museum’s directors/curators can impact the meaning generated by the objects on display. In addition, I also contributed a research article to the Journal of Curatorial Studies, which is going to press this October. This article tackles the importance of focalization in understanding subjective interpretation of museum displays, both as a narrative device that denotes the perspectival filtration of a museum presentation and an analytical tool that can explicate the potential ideologies behind an exhibition. During my fellowship, I have also completed an object-based article, a column, and two exhibition reviews, which are going to be published later this year.

Facing one of Leiden’s beautiful canals, the IIAS building on Rapenburg street has a chic look, with white cornices, keystones, and decorated window frames on its brick-red façade. Behind the heavy, dark-green wooden door is a corridor connecting to a quaint, spiral staircase that leads to study rooms on different floors. The corridor also reaches a verdurous backyard where fellows and staff can enjoy a picnic. The Institute’s calendar is fleshed out with plenty of (non-)academic presentations and sharing. A special activity I participated in was sharing my personal history with other fellows; more specifically, how my life stories and experience have led to the academic itineraries I choose today. This sharing took place in a cozy tea room, immersed in the smells of coffee, various strains of conversation, and moments of contemplation.

I appreciate the camaraderie and warm support from IIAS staff and fellows and cherish every moment we got to spend with each other. And now, I look forward to charting a new course on my academic voyage.