Photo of Birgit Hopfener

Birgit Hopfener

Associate Professor and Confucius Chair

Phone:613-520-2600 x 5045
Office:ICSLAC 201L SP

Degrees: M.A. and Dr. phil (Freie Universität Berlin)

Birgit Hopfener is Associate Professor of Art History at Carleton University in Ottawa, where she is also cross-appointed to the Institute for Comparative Studies in Literature, Art and Culture (ICSLAC).

Her specialization is contemporary art in the global context, with a special emphasis on China. By historicizing and localizing contemporary art practices and discourses and their transcultural entanglements she examines how contemporary art is no longer constituted solely through Western narratives and epistemologies of art, but by multiple and entangled histories and knowledge structures as well as by global canon and power-structures. It is in this regard and informed by post-colonial theory that she seeks to contribute to the re-thinking of the discipline of art history beyond Euro-centric narratives and its rootedness in modern Western epistemology.

Supported by a SSHRC Insight Development Grant she is currently working on a project entitled Contemporaneity’s Transcultural Entanglements. Historiographic Interventions by Li Ran, Qiu Zhijie and Yan Xing, which examines border crossing transcultural art historiographies by three contemporary Chinese artists. The research outcomes will be part of a larger book project on historiographic art in the global context.

Trained in East Asian and Euro-American art history as well as in Sinology her main research focus is to analyze contemporary Chinese art from historical and transcultural perspectives. Her first monograph Installationskunst in China. Transkulturelle Reflexionsräume einer Genealogie des Performativen, 2013 (Installation Art in China. Transcultural Spaces Reflecting a Genealogy of the Performative. Installation Art in China. Transcultural Spaces Reflecting a Genealogy of the Performative) examines installation art in China as spaces of transcultural exchange and negotiation from socio-political as well as from art and intellectual historical perspectives.

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The findings of her post-doc project Topologies of Art in Relationship to Life as a Transculturally Negotiated Theme in Contemporary Chinese Art are published in various (peer reviewed) articles.  In the project, she examined how Qiu Zhijie, a major representative of a contemporary Chinese art discourse on art as life practice, critically interrelates Euro-American, Chinese and other regional genealogies of how art and life relate to each other. Based on examinations of Qiu Zhjije’s practice as a case study, she sought to decenter dominant discursive frameworks on the relationship between art and life rooted in Western modern art and avant-garde movements—both in terms of its logic and genealogies.

Birgit Hopfener is the co-editor of Negotiating Difference: Chinese Contemporary Art in the Global Context (2012) and Situating Global Art. Topologies – Temporalities – Trajectories (2017).

Her teaching covers the canon of art history but also exceeds its borders by critiquing dominant histories and epistemologies of art and by including conventionally excluded art histories, artists, regions, concepts and media. She teaches introductions to Chinese and East Asian art and art history, courses engaging with various issues in contemporary Chinese and Euro-American art and art history such as for example socially engaged art, artistic cartographies, historiography, iconoclasm, installation art, new media art. She also offers courses on exhibition histories of “global art”, discourses on global art history and critical contemporaneity. Currently, she is also teaching the second, canon critiquing culture theory core course of the PhD program “Cultural Mediations” in ICSLAC.

Before coming to Carleton University, Hopfener taught at Freie Universität Berlin, Heidelberg Universität, Universität der Künste Berlin, Universität Zürich and Universität Duisburg-Essen.

Birgit Hopfener is also an active curator and art critic. Her articles appeared in magazine and journals such as Yishu. Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art, Texte zur Kunst, artnet magazine and Leap.The international art magazine of contemporary China. She (co-) curated exhibitions for the ZKM in Karlsruhe, the Goethe-Institutes in Hong Kong and Beijing, the Edith-Ruß-Haus in Oldenburg and the OCAT Art Terminal in Shenzhen.

She is an associated member of the excellence cluster „Asia and Europe in a Global Context: The Dynamics of Transculturality“, Heidelberg University and the co-founder of the research network “Arts and Humanities Research Network for Transcultural Perspectives (RNTP)”, which is conceived as critical, interdisciplinary and international research association of scholars, who study phenomena and processes of cultural exchange in the field of the arts.

At Carleton, she is co-director of the Centre for Transnational Analysis (CTCA) and the co-initiator of the international consortium Transnational and Transcultural Arts and Cultural Exchange (trACE).

She serves on the editorial boards of the journals Zeitschriften ASAP½Journal (Johns Hopkins University  Press) and Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art (Intellect Ltd, UK).