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Hang Li

PhD Work

The present and future of curatorial theories and practices in the network society

My research examines the curatorial theories and practices emerging from the interplay between contemporary art and network cultures and technologies. It proposes a move beyond considering the forms, media and techniques of curating media art, to the situating of the curatorial theories and practices in the interlocking of social, political, economic and technological forces in the network society; that is, the contemporary societies shaping and being shaped by network cultures and technologies. Drawing on the source of feminist epistemology, science and technology studies, and the social theories of knowledge, power and capitalism, the research presents the questions of, what are the standpoints, tensions and consequences of those curatorial theories and practices; and what are their implications for the way we understand contemporary art and the network society for now and in the near future?

Acknowledged that the forces impacting curatorial theories and practises are redefining boundaries and cultures, this research will trace six practitioners in the United Kingdom and China, including Marc Garrett, Ben Vickers, Sarah Cook, Iris Long and Juehui Wu and Dillon Zhang, whose works are closely related to the institutions including Furtherfield, Serpentine Gallery, Curatorial Resource for Upstart Media Bliss, Chronus Art Centre and the Central Academy of Fine Art. Both China and the UK have executed the social reformation labelled as neoliberalism. The government of the two countries importantly share the vision of locating contemporary art within the creative industries in alliance with science and technology for enhancing national soft power. The selected practitioners and the institutions they work with and for have extensive international collaborations with leading art institutions such as Tate, V2_, Rhizome and Transmediale; technology corporations such as Google and Tencent; and organisations including technologist, hacker and activist communities. 

In this research, the case studies will be examined as a section or sample of the contemporary art ecology interplaying with the network society. It is intended as identification of the shared challenges, chances and urgencies beyond conventional boundaries defined by nations, traditions or ethnicities. The research will approach the case studies to analyse how curatorial theories and practices are positioned, performed and justified within the art field and a broader context of technology, politics and economics. Following the concept of situated knowledge, the research will examine the agencies and their interactions based on the recognition of their knowledge backgrounds, local situations, political standpoints and value systems.  The situated knowledge will be compared and interpreted by considering the underpinning macro-forces related to techno-politics, neoliberalism and the creative industries. This approach is intended to offer a politically and technologically sensitised articulation of the web of differential positionings impacting curatorial theories and practices. It aims to provide the groundwork to test the value and boundaries of practising, organising and instituting contemporary art in the network society. This research will be of interest to those working in cultural and technological fields, including art and curatorial practitioners, art institutional stakeholders, technology enterprises, technologists and policymakers. It will also be of key interest to curatorial studies and education.

MA work

For the Time Being

For the Time Being is an experimental programme of photo-performance, conceived as a response to the everyday presence of social media. The project invites five international contemporary artists – AgoramaAgil AbdullayevFeng MengboMax Grau and Tamara Kametani – to reflect on the role of image sharing networks in their personal lives. Through a series of on and offline events and performances, the artists will interrogate the way in which popular apps like Snapchat, Whatsapp and Instagram have affected an understanding of intimacy, digital connectedness and notions of personal and collective memory.

The project uses Snapchat, an app devised to share intimate, disappearing images, as a central protagonist. Originally designed with unique features of instantaneity, intimacy and ephemerality, Snapchat quickly rose to cult popularity amongst a generation of millennials who used it to develop a means of communication that was playful, creative, subversive and entirely their own. Today, the artists of For the Time Being use Snapchat as a medium and a tool through which they reflect on debates within contemporary social media. The programme, therefore, presents an assemblage of ideas reflecting on big issues such as internet identities, fake news and data privacy, to more personal encounters of nostalgia and memory.


  • PhD


    School of Arts & Humanities


    Arts & Humanities Research, 2019–

  • MA Degree


    School of Arts & Humanities


    MA Curating Contemporary Art, 2019

  • Hang Li is a curator, researcher and designer based in London and Beijing. Her research focus is on curatorial practices and theories as regards network cultures, global capitalism, feminist theories and organisational approaches to social justice.

    Hang’s essays about online curating, institutional currents and social justice are published in journals and books. She has curated art events at institutions and organisations such as The Photographers’ Gallery, the Royal College of Art and Spazju Kreattiv. She is a first-year PhD student and a visiting mentor in the School of Arts and Humanities at the Royal College of Art.

  • Degrees

  • BArch Architecture, Tianjin University, China, 2014; MArch Architectural Design, The Bartlett School of Architecture, University College of London, 2016; MA Curating Contemporary Art, Royal College of Art, 2019
  • Experience

  • Exhibition assistant, Beijing Centre of Arts & Position Architecture, Beijing, 2014; Event coordinator and deputy director’s assistant, Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art, Beijing, 2015; Researcher, Today Art Museum, Beijing, 2017; Art fair assistant, Magician Space in Frieze London, London, 2018; Guest speaker on Curating on the web, from to the present, Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University, 2020; Guest speaker, CORONAvideoS ep 10, curated by Albert Figurt, 2020; Researcher, OPEN Research Initiative, 2020; Visiting mentor, MA Curating Contemporary Art, Royal College of Art, 2020
  • Exhibitions

  • Meta Utopia – Between Process and Poetry, Zaha Hadid Design Gallery, 2016 (in group exhibition); For the Time Being, The Photographers’ Gallery, London, 2019; Restaging For the Time Being, Video Vortex 12, 2019 (in group exhibition); Emotional Practices, Open Research Initiative, 2019 (Online project); Textual bodies: Online Studio Visit with Adam Walker, RCA Show2020, 2020 (forthcoming); Sense-Making for Sharing Sensibilities: Art, Design and Social Change, RCA Show2020, 2020 (forthcoming panel discussion); no-longer-being-able-to-be-able, Skelf, 2020 (forthcoming)
  • Awards

  • The Prize for Excellence, HYP Cup International Student Competition in Architectural Design, 2012; Shortlised, Hyundai Blue Prize
  • Conferences

  • Speaker in the Value Conference, Central Saint Martin and Royal College of Art, London; Making Cultural Space hosted by Central Saint Martin and Royal College of Art, 2018
  • Publications

  • Li, H., 2019. The decoloniality is just too on point for online curation at this moment, for art project Emotional Practices.; 李航, 2020. 戒断,应激,文化断层?从COVID-19期间的艺术机构网络实践谈起. 美术馆 2. 文章委任于中央美术学院美术馆 (CAFAM) 的“疫情后的美术馆“研讨写作计划,并收录于北京大学视觉与图像研究中心 ( Center for Visual Studies CVS); Li, H., 2020. If There Still is a Point to Curating on Social Media, What Is It?, in: Lovink, G., Treske, A., Wilson, J. (Eds.), Video Vortex Reader III: Inside the YouTube Decade, INC Reader. Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam, pp. 245–357.