Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)


SAVA: The Vital Breath from the Broken Earth - Sensing and Healing on China’s Fossil Fuel Frontier

16 October 2023, 6:00 pm–7:30 pm

image of a power plant

A performative lecture by Beijing based curator and art historian Mia Yu as part of the programme of the SAVA Research Week, introduced by Maja and Reuben Fowkes (UCL Postsocialist Art Centre).

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to

All | UCL staff | UCL students






Institute of Advanced Studies


IAS Forum
G17, Ground Floor, South Wing, Wilkins Building
UCL, Gower Street, London

In this performance lecture, Mia Yu re-imagines the anthropogenic landscape of Fushun colliery—Asia’s largest open-pit mine—as a cultural-material construction of modernity, where Chinese cosmology, colonial violence, Socialist industrialization, hybrid forms of shamanism and personal memories converged and agglomerated throughout the 20th century. Approaching the gigantic mine pit, the heaps of mining waste, the depleted rivers and the latest renewable energy projects as “strati-fictions”, Mia Yu narrates the non-linear stories of Fushun with rich historical materials, found archives, film footage and field recordings. Through a variety of mediums and technologies, Mia Yu and local artists set out to activate the “vital breath” from the geologically-and-chemically-altered earth while exploring an ethics of healing and care on the fossil fuel frontier of Northeast China.  

Socialist Anthropocene in the Visual Arts (SAVA) sets out to radically transform current critical debates around the Anthropocene, addressing the major lacuna in existing accounts by establishing the Socialist Anthropocene as a conceptual framework that asserts the constitutive role of the environmental histories and potentialities of Socialism in the formation of the new geological age. The project is led by Dr. Maja Fowkes (UCL Institute of Advanced Studies) and funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) under the UK government’s Horizon Europe funding guarantee. www.sava.earth

About the Speaker

Mia Yu

Beijing-based art historian, curator and educator

She is the initiator of Anthropocene x Extractive Frontier, a research platform that uses Northeast China (a.k.a. Manchuria) as a point of departure to explore the divergent narratives of the Anthropocene by engaging eco-imageries, alternative cosmologies, colonial histories, Socialist experiences and embodied eco-poetics. Under this framework, Mia Yu has curated “Liu Yujia: A Darkness Shimmering in the Light” (Tang Contemporary Art Beijing), “Counterpoints: Focus China” (Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden), “Resonances of One Hundred Things” (OCAT Biennale 2021), “Ecological Entanglements From Northeast China” (Pro Helvetia), “Local Knowledge and Ecological Sensibilities (Goethe Institut Beijing), “In Your Distant Embrace” (Fushun No. 1 Petrochemical Plant), and “From Vladivostok to Xishuangbanna” (Jimei x Arles International Photo Festival 2020). Mia Yu’s essay films have been exhibited at Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Times Art Center Berlin, Guangdong Times Museum, Villa Vassilieff and Asia Society. She has lectured about her work in art institutions and universities in China and worldwide.