Public Programming


The Courtauld Institute of Art, Vernon Square Campus, London WC1X 9EW
9.30AM - 5PM, 01.12.2023

We are thrilled to announce that the Asymmetry International Symposium 2023 will take place on Friday, 1 December. Following the successful launch of the Asymmetry Lecture Series at the Courtauld Institute of Art earlier this year, this annual conference, titled Energies of Attachment: Mapping Intimacy across Art, Science, and Ecology, will be an important occasion and point of academic exchange aimed at expanding global dialogues and conversations surrounding the Sinophone landscape to wider audiences.

Intimacy, with its potential for mutual and nonnormative, asymmetrical yet affective relationships, channels profound energies to repair epistemological frictions in times of ecological crises. Beyond the interpersonal sphere, intimacy expands across multiple scales, encompassing geographic, terrestrial, and other-worldly dimensions, as well as the biotechnological, cybernetic, and microbial realms that shape our present-day climatic challenges. This one-day cross-disciplinary symposium gathers practitioners to explore the manifold possibilities of intimacy in addressing and tinkering with ecological ruptures. The symposium aims to elicit critical and imaginative responses to the following inquiries:

- How can we effectively map, narrate, and mediate intimacy across species, scales, and temporalities, spanning individual bodies and psyches, communities, environments, landscapes, and entire ecosystems?

- Can assemblages such as forests, soil, bodies of water, and more serve as conceptual frameworks, socio-cultural realities, and visionary ‘zones of familiarity’ that nurture entangled matters — biotic or abiotic, human and otherwise?

- How do we make sense of the mutability of intimacy regarding care and violence, conviviality and competition, mutualism and parasitism, within myriad ecological relations in general and in particular?

- Can artistic practices, creativity, critical thinking, and knowledge-making processes offer fresh insights into understanding intimacy within the intricate dynamics of ecological interconnectedness?



9.30 – 9.45 WELCOME

Dr Feixuan Xu (The Courtauld Institute of Art)

9.45 – 10.45 KEYNOTE LECTURE 1

Eco Queer Intimacy, Dr Zheng Bo (City University of Hong Kong)

10.45 – 11.00 BREAK

11.00 – 12.45 PANEL A: Bonding with Land and Earth

Chair: Dr Wenny Teo (The Courtauld Institute of Art)

- In the Distant Embrace of the Changbai Mountains: Drone as a Sentient Being, Mia Yu (Independent curator)

- From ‘Human Mine’ to ‘Energy Battle’: Extractivist Capitalism and Relationality in Post-Reform China, Dr Loretta Lou (Durham University)

- Soilkin: Relational Exercises with Soil and Stones, Dr Alexandra R. Toland (Bauhaus University Weimar)

12.45 – 13.45 LUNCH

13.45 – 15.30 PANEL B: Microbial, Vegetal and Animal Kin

Chair: Nick Yu (Asymmetry Art Foundation)

- Contemplating with Viruses, Pei-Ying Lin (Artist)

- Pious Intimacy, Dr Franklin Ginn (University of Bristol)

- Violent Intimacy: A Postcolonial Semiotics of Contamination in the Work of Jes Fan, Sophie Guo (The Courtauld Institute of Art)

15.30 – 15.50 BREAK

15.50 – 16.10 SCREENING: 羽化 (wings becoming), 2022, 6'20'', 16mm colour film, silent, Enzo Camacho and Ami Lien

Introduction by Michèle Ruo Yi Landolt (Asymmetry Art Foundation)

16.15 – 17.15 KEYNOTE LECTURE 2

Guddling About: An Intimate Artistic Practice with Rivers, Lakes, Drains, Puddles, Sewage Works, and Other Watery Bodies, Prof Minty Donald (University of Glasgow)

17.15 – 17.30 CLOSING REMARK

Dr Feixuan Xu (The Courtauld Institute of Art)


Organised by Dr Feixuan Xu (Asymmetry Postdoctoral Fellow, The Courtauld) and Dr Wenny Teo (Senior Lecturer, Modern and Contemporary Art, The Courtauld).


Zheng Bo is an ecoqueer artist of ethnic Bai heritage. Through drawing, dance and film, they cultivate kinships with plants. These relations are aesthetic, erotic, and political. For them, art does not arise from human creativity, but more-than-human vibrancy. Bo lives in a village on the south side of Lantau Island, Hong Kong. Guided by Daoist wisdom, they grow weedy gardens, living slogans, biophilia films, and ecosocialist gatherings. These diverse projects, alive and entangled, constitute a garden where they collaborate with both human and nonhuman thinkers and activists. Their ecological art practice contributes to an emergent planetary indigeneity. In 2023 Zheng Bo is working on the Artist’s Garden commission at Jameel Arts Centre in Dubai and three botanical public works outside Rockbund Art Museum in Shanghai. In 2022 they presented a forest dance film titled Le Sacre du printemps at the 59th Venice Biennale. They taught at China Academy of Art from 2010 to 2013, and currently teaches at the School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong.

Enzo Camacho and Ami Lien are artists and writers from the US and the Philippines. Together, they have an artistic practice that moves from the Philippines outwards to other places, addressing localized iterations of labor and capital from the perspective of imperial damage. They have had solo exhibitions at Para Site, Hong Kong (2023); 47 Canal, New York (2022); Kunstverein Freiburg, Freiburg im Breisgau (2018), Germany; and Hessel Museum of Art, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson (2018). Recent group exhibitions include the Tai Kwun Contemporary (2022), the 10th Asia Pacific Triennial, Brisbane, Australia (2021); the 5th New Museum Triennial, New York, USA (2021); the 39th EVA International, Limerick, Ireland (2021); Manifesta 13, Marseille, France (2020); the Drawing Center, New York, USA (2020); the Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts, Taipei, Taiwan (2019), the Brunei Gallery, SOAS University of London, London, UK (2019); the NTU Center for Contemporary Art, Singapore (2018); Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, China (2017), Jim Thompson Art Center, Bangkok, Thailand (2017), and Green Papaya Art Projects (2009). From 2021 - 2023, Camacho and Lien were Fellows at the Graduate School of the Universität der Künste, Berlin, Germany.

Minty Donald is based in Glasgow and Madrid. Donald is an artist, researcher and Professor of Contemporary Performance Practice at the University of Glasgow. Her practice takes multiple forms, determined by the context in which she is working, but includes performance, sculpture, participatory events and writing. In her practice, she treats other-than-human matter as a collaborator, acknowledging its liveliness and agency, while also recognising the limits and inequalities of human/other-than-human collaboration. Her recent practice focuses on interrelationships between humans and water, and between humans and stone.

Franklin Ginn is a Senior Lecturer in cultural and historical geography at the University of Bristol, UK. From 2011 to 2015 he was a lecturer in human geography at the University of Edinburgh. He is author of Domestic wild: Memory, nature and gardening in suburbia (Routledge, 2016), Co-Editor with Marion Ernwein and James Palmer of The Work That Plants Do (2021) and Co-Editor of Environmental Humanities. His current research focuses on the politics and philosophy of plant life, including fieldwork in urban Pakistan, and on Anthroposcenic landscapes in Scotland. Franklin has a PhD in Geography from King’s College London

Sophie Xiaofei Guo is an associate lecturer and PhD candidate at The Courtauld Institute of Art, UK. Her research investigates the intersections of biotechnology and contemporary art in Sinophone cultures, with a particular focus on gender, sexuality, and race. Her thesis examines how biomedicine has transformed image-making in Sinophone cultures from the late 1980s to the present day. Her publications include "Doubting sex: Examining the biomedical gaze in Lu Yang’s UterusMan" (2019), ‘Gender in Chinese contemporary art’ (2018), and “We will infiltrate your bloodline”: Biohacking gender, trans aesthetics and the making of queer kinship in the work of Jes Fan’ (forthcoming book chapter).

Pei-Ying Lin is an artist/designer from Taiwan and currently based in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. Her main focus is on the combination of science and human society through artistic methods, and is particularly interested in building a common discussion ground for different cultural perspective regarding elements that constructs our individual perception of the world. Recently she has been focusing on manipulating the boundary of invisible/visible, living/non-living and finding ways to build tools and methods that facilitate such explorations. She has won the Honorary Mention in Hybrid Arts Category of Ars Electronica 2015, Professional Runner Up in Speculative Concepts of Core 77 Awards 2015, BioArt and Design Award 2016, and the first group of Taiwanese artists of residence in the program of Accelerate@CERN. Her project PSX Consultancy is a permanent collection of Museum of Architecture and Design, Slovenia.

Loretta Lou is Assistant Professor in Social Anthropology at Durham University. She specializes in the study of environment, health, activism, and self-development in East Asia. Her first project was an ethnographic study of “Green Living” in Hong Kong and its implications for self-development, relationality, everyday ethics, and social movements. Building on her interest in environmental activism in East Asia, her second research project, funded by the European Research Council, “Toxic Expertise: Environmental Justice and the Global Petrochemical Industry,” focuses on the ways Chinese people negotiate and make sense of toxic pollution, their perceptions of (environmental) injustice, and how they cope with contrived ignorance. In her research projects, she questions the interplay between freedom and (inter-)dependency, resistance and resilience, noticing and unnoticing, and the production of knowledge and ignorance in the most mundane forms in everyday life.

Alexandra Regan Toland is Associate Professor for Arts and Research at the Bauhaus University Weimar and co-chair of the Commission on the History, Philosophy and Sociology of Soils of the International Union of Soil Sciences. She earned her MFA from the Dutch Art Institute (DAI) and a doctorate degree in landscape planning from the TU-Berlin as a DFG fellow in the Perspectives of Urban Ecology Graduate Research Group. Alex has published widely on artistic (research) practices as they relate to soil protection and the Anthropocene and her works have been exhibited at Ars Electronica, Museum Schloß Moyland, German Hygiene Museum Dresden, and the Centre for Contemporary Art Glasgow.

Mia Yu is a Beijing-based art historian, curator, and educator. Her research interests include Asian geopolitics, energy politics and the Anthropocene from the perspective of Northeast China. She was the winner of the Yishu Award for Critical Writing on Contemporary Art (2018), the recipient of the Tate Asia Research Travel Fellowship (2017), and the CCAA Art Critic Award (2015). She is on the jury committee for the Hyundai Blue Prize For Emerging Curators. As an adjunct professor, she has lectured at China Art Academy, China Central Art Academy, Xi’an Art Academy, and Peking University. In 2021, Mia Yu initiated a long-term curatorial project “The Anthropocene North” that is focused on ecological entanglements and sensibilities from the perspective of Northeast Asia.