Foto China Girls and the Color Genie. A multichronotopic research.

China Girls and the Color Genie.


China Girls and the Color Genie.

China Girls and the Color Genie. A multichronotopic research.

The current research project questions the tradition of China Girls in relation to both gender performances and the inner workings of cinema contextualized in a society, which, according to Taussig (2009) and Batchelor  (2011(2000)) exemplifies chromophobic uneasiness with color. It starts from sociologist Lorna Roth’s observation that “Film chemistry, photo lab procedures, video screen colour balancing practices, and digital cameras in general were originally developed with a global assumption of 'whiteness' embedded within their architectures and expected ensemble of practices” (Roth 2009: 117). It will use the convention of China Girls as a starting point to look into cross-cultural practices of cinematography and their relation to ‘color quality control’ processes. It will not only look into the western tradition of cinematography but will also create multichronotopic links between different geographical, cultural and historical groups. Comparative ethnographic research will be conducted during film shoots of authors part of the Nollywood production in Nigeria, (experimental film) authors who work with Fuji Film in Japan and authors who have been awarded by the African-American Film Critics Association (AAFCA). Research questions include: What are the different traditions related to ‘color quality control’ processes in these geographical, comparative spaces? How is skin complexion, cinematography and representation related to the – in Taussig’s words - colonially split world (Taussig 2009)? What can we understand in terms of the mechanics of the production process when we situate the tradition of China Girls within a chromophobic culture? What can this research illuminate about the relationship between ideological determinants and the “inner workings of the processes that bring films into being” (Yue 2012: 8)?
These research questions will be explored during the development of two films, a symposium, master seminars and several publications. The artistic research starts from ethnographic fieldwork and the concept of the “haptic” which will be applied – unconventionally - to documentary films. This research project thus questions the operation of the technologies of photographic media by investigating the relation between skin complexion and cinematography. As such, it is the aim of this research to delve into the process of production of the actual creation of film colors in its racial, chromophobic and chromatic dimensions. It aims at drawing attention to the normative powers of technological development and looks at the ways in which cultural determinants influence this development. It therefore explores practices that exemplify dysconscious racism (King 2001), which are normally hidden and confined within the technological developments of cinema aesthetics.

Maaike Neuville. Set photo Lili, copyright Lisa Spilliaert.



An van. Dienderen


Hans Op De Beeck, Chia Longman (UGent), Genevieve Yue (The New School (New York,US)), Joachim Naudts (FoMu – Fotografie Museum Antwerpen)


1/03/2015 - 25/05/2019



Programma financier

Twee- tot vierjarige onderzoeksprojecten

Externe organisaties

Universiteit Gent, Faculteit Letteren en Wijsbegeerte, Vakgroep Talen en Culturen
The New School - New York, Verenigde Staten van Amerika
FoMu - AP Fotomuseum Antwerpen