Dr Ros Holmes


Full contact details
View graph of relations


I joined Manchester in 2019 as a Presidential Fellow in the History of Chinese Art. Prior to joining the department, I undertook a Junior Research Fellowship at Christ Church, Oxford. I completed my DPhil and M. St in History of Art at the University of Oxford and I hold a BA in Chinese and History of Art/Archaeology from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). 

My research focuses on the art of twentieth century and contemporary China with a special interest in online visual culture. I am particularly interested in the interaction between high and low, popular and elite forms of cultural production in China. Additional research interests include the circulation and consumption of state produced rhetoric and imagery, satire and subversion, soft power and biopolitics. My first book, The Art of Incivility: 'Rudeness' and Representation in Contemporary China is the first sustained investigation of how civility (and its counter image) has been visualised in China. Visualising incivility in ways that question the instrumental use of the term, including how it has been both imagined and imaged by the state, The Art of Incivility establishes how artists have redirected the critical potential of incivility towards different aims, ones which articulate and register the agitated pulse of twentieth and twenty-first century China as well as its role in the present geopolitical imaginary. 

One strand of my current research builds on this study, exploring China’s online culture and the defining role that image making is coming to assume within this sphere. Entitled ‘The Mediated Image’ the project examines how artists are increasingly using digital media to disseminate their work to new audiences. Revealing the existence of a creative, humorous, but also socially and politically critical ‘China online,’ which frequently locates itself outside of the intellectual discourse surrounding state censorship and contemporary art, the project explores aspects of visual culture at the forefront of modern and contemporary encounters between China and the wider world. 

My new project Somnolent States: A Visual History of Sleep in Modern China, charts changing visualisations of sleep (and sleeplessness) from the early twentieth century to the present day. The project scrutinizes an array of somnolent states, using them as a lens to investigate images of ‘national awakening’ in the early years of the Republic, the insomniac temporality of the Cultural Revolution, as well as contemporary art practices which challenge the necessity of hyper-mobile bodies harnessed to the narrative of national ascendancy. As the ‘Chinese Dream’, with its vision of a sleepless (and highly productive) society continues to gain symbolic currency, the project delineates how depictions of dormancy might also serve as a metaphor for ecological recovery. Examining a diverse range of visual media, from newspaper illustrations to immersive installations, state produced ‘propaganda’ to post-internet practices, and works of conceptual art to commercial advertisements, the project offers a rich and diverse reading of the aesthetics of sleep in modern and contemporary China. 

My articles and reviews have appeared in ARTMarginsThe China JournalOxford Art Journal and The China Quarterly and I currently sit on the editorial board of the Journal of Chinese Contemporary Art (JCCA). In 2019 I co-curated the exhibition Chinternet Ugly at the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (CFCCA) in Manchester.

Related information


Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk

View all (4)

Media coverage and contribution

Press/Media: Expert comment

View all (3)