Kiki Tianqi Yu, UoA 34, MAD

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Kiki Tianqi Yu has just been awarded the PhD from the Centre for Research and Education in Arts and Media (CREAM), University of Westminster. Her thesis “‘My’ Self on Camera – First person DV documentary filmmaking in twenty-first century China” is an interdisciplinary study situated in the fields of documentary film studies, Chinese cinema, amateur cinema, Chinese studies and cultural anthropology. Kiki obtained a distinction in BA (Hons) Film and TV production from University of Westminster, and an MPhil in Sociology from Newnham College, University of Cambridge. As a filmmaker, her documentary “Photographing Shenzhen” was commissioned to Discovery Channel in 2007, and her video work “Memory of Home” (2009) is collected by DSLCollection. In collaboration with King’s College London, she co-organised the first international conference on Chinese cinema in the UK – New Generation Chinese Cinema in 2011. Her essay “Exploring the Familial Self” is included in the forthcoming book “Saving Private Reel” (co-edited by Laura Rascaroli, Continuum, 2013). She is coediting a volume “China’s iGeneration: Filmmakers, Films, and Audiences in a New Media Age” (Continuum, 2013). Recently Kiki co-founded DSL CineMag, a new bilingual (Chinese/English) multimedia app-magazine to promote Chinese New Cinema, with a target audience of both general public and specialists in film and art worlds.

This project examines an important but less explored aspect of contemporary documentary practice in the digital era – the first person filmmaking practice – with a geographical focus on post-socialist China. It focuses on the work of nine contemporary Chinese independent filmmakers, including Ai Weiwei, Yang Lina, Shu Haolun, Hu Xinyu, and Wu Haohao.

Examining both the film text as an aesthetic and cultural object that constructs a self, and the filmmaking practice as a form of social participation, I argue that these films illustrate the makers’ individual selves as multi-layered and conflicted, situated in complex familial and social relationships, and in the changing relations between individuals and the state. In addition, this practice can be seen as a form of provocative social participation that stimulates individual critical thinking, helps reconstruct political value and reactivate the political space in China. These films and the filmmaking practice not only reflect some aspects of the changing concept of individual self in contemporary China, but can be seen as a generative process, that further contribute to the changing constitution of the individual subject in China.

This project demonstrates some features of the complex changing relations between the public and the private space, between the collective and the personal, and between the individual and the party-state in post-socialist China. It aims to contribute to current debates in the international field of first person filmmaking, and to studies of Chinese culture and society.

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