Maya Kóvskaya (PhD UC Berkeley, 2009) is a Delhi/Beijing-based political cultural theorist and curator with two decades of combined experience in the Chinese and Indian arts and cultural worlds, and 8+ years of teaching at UC Berkeley and Chinese universities. An award-winning teacher and independent scholar, Ashe has authored, co-authored, edited, translated, and contributed to many books and articles on contemporary art as it intersects with the political, cultural and ecological. She was the Beijing Director and Asian Art Advisor to the Faurschou Foundation (2012-2013) and is currently Art Editor for Positions: Asia Critique (Duke University Press). She has curated and collaborated on numerous international contemporary art exhibitions and public art interventions as well.
Maya’s current research on the politics of knowledge and value making involves ethnographically grounded “epistemological investigations” into the “performative politics” of “speech acts,” “ordinary language games” and “constitutive practices” conjoining art, ecology, and the public sphere. She is particularly interested in these issues within the larger context of ecological crisis, civic and nation-building strategies, power and authority struggles, and questions of political membership in India and China.
The intersection of ecology, politics and art has been a major focus of Maya’s research for the past decade. She has written extensively about the public performance art and ecology movement during the mid-late-90s in Chengdu, Sichuan, PRC (2008). At the KHOJ International Artists Association she was Critic in Residence for the first “In Context: Public Art Ecology” Program (2010). She conceptualized and taught “Writing Ecologies: Critical Discourse, Public Art & the Environment” for the Foundation for India Contemporary Art and the Yamuna-Elbe Project (2011). She participated in the “Anthropocene Workshop,” organized by HKW, Max Planck Institute, MMB – Goethe Institute, CSDS New Delhi, (2014), as well as the IPEN 2014 Global Meeting of international network of environmental NGOs in Kunming, China (2014) as an associate of the Delhi-based NGO Toxics Links. Most recently she was a fellow and commentator at the Anthropocene Campus held in Berlin at Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW) in Berlin in cooperation with the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Deutsches Museum, the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, and the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies.
Maya’s recent book publications include @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz, ed. David Spalding, Introduction by Cheryl Haines. San Francisco: Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy (2014); Louise Bourgeois: Alone and Together, Maya Kóvskaya, Zhu Qi. Beijing and Copenhagen: Faurschou Foundation, D.A.P./ Distributed Art Publishers (2014); Han Lei. Beijing: Thircuir Limited (2013); Action-Camera: Beijing Performance Photography, Maya Kóvskaya, Keith Wallace and Thomas J. Berghuis, Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press (2009); China Under Construction: Contemporary Art from the People’s Republic, Beijing: Futurista Art (2007); Chen Haiyan: Carving the Unconscious, Britta Erickson Ed., Beijing: Ink Studio, New York: D.A.P./ Distributed Art Publishers (Forthcoming in 2015). She is currently working on two book projects, entitled respectively, Shifting Grounds: Political Ecology, Art Interventions, and Environmental Discourse in Indian Contemporary Art; and Ecopolis: Experiments in Ecotopia, Authority Relations, and the Problem of Political Membership.
Maya has worked on numerous exhibitions as curator, curatorial collaborator or consultant, and/or art critic doing the primary conceptual framing and writing for the exhibition. Shows include Earthbound, Project 88, Mumbai (2015); Some Kind of Nature: Tejal Shah, Outset India and Project 88, New Delhi (2014); Shirin Neshat: Book of Kings at the Faurschou Foundation, Beijing (2013); Everyday Matters (working with curator Jannie Haagemann), Faurschou Foundation, Copenhagen (2013); Louise Bourgeois: Alone and Together (working with curator Jerry Gorovoy), Faurschou Foundation, Beijing (2012); Chen Zhen: Même Lit, Rêves Differents, Faurschou Foundation, Beijing (2012); The Secret Life of Plants, Exhibit 320, New Delhi (2012); In You is the Illusion of Each Day, Latitude 28, New Delhi (2012); Staging Selves: Power, Performativity & Portraiture, Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai (2011); Excrescence, The Guild, Mumbai (2011); A Cry from the Narrow Between Tejal Shah & Han Bing, Gallery Espace, New Delhi (2010); In Context: Public Art Ecology I, KHOJ International Artist Workshop, New Delhi (2010); Passages: China at the Crossroads at Gallery OED, Cochin (2009); Action-Camera: Beijing Performance Photography (working with curator Keith Wallace), Helen and Morris Belkin Art Gallery, Vancouver (2009); Spectral Memory: Wu Gaozhong Solo Exhibition, Zendai Museum, Shanghai (2008); Multiple Realities, Beijing (2008); China Under Construction II, 2008 Fotofest 12th International Photography Biennial, Houston (2008); Asia Triennial Manchester ATM08 (working with The International 3), Manchester (2008); The Fatalistic Language of Things, Columbia Art Museum, Columbia, SC, USA (2007); China Under Construction I, 2007, Art Houston, Deborah Colton Gallery (2008); Misalignments: Chinese Performance and Video Art, Institute of East Asian Studies, UC Berkeley (USA, 2006), as well as others.
Lecturing on contemporary art and political culture, Maya has presented her research in a variety of institutional settings, including the Xi’an Museum of Fine Arts (2010); Baroda Faculty of Fine Arts (2010); Asia Society in Mumbai (2009); University of South Carolina, Walker Institute (2007; USC Center for Asia Studies (2007); Columbia Art Museum (2007); at the UC Berkeley Center for Chinese Studies (2006); Institute of East Asian Studies (2006); UCLA Center for Chinese Studies (2006): the American Anthropology Association (2000, 2002); Berkeley Program in Soviet/Post-Soviet Studies (1995, 1997); European University at St. Petersburg, Center for Interpretive Studies in Politics and Society, Russia (1996), the UCB Political Theory Forum (1994), etc.Maya has also participated in and/or moderated many discussion panels, most recently including “Vulnerable Assemblages in the Artwork of Tejal Shah, “ Outset India, New Delhi (2014) with Shuddhabrata Sengupta, Shohini Ghosh, and Natasha Ginwala; “Wang Dongling: Beside the Ancient Road,” Tianjin (2014), “Chen Haiyan: Carving the Unconscious,” Ink Studio, Beijing (2013), “Mumbai Gallery Weekend Contemporary Art Practices” with Matthew Collings (2013), the Experimenter Curator’s Hub in Kolkata as moderator (2012) and presenter (2011); “Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art Talks” with Sheba Chhachhi (2010), and Sreejata Roy and Paribartana Mohanty (2011), and moderator (2012); and “Yishu Critical States Forum” with Keith Wallace, Ken Lum, Britta Erickson, Murtaza Vali, Gao Minglu, and others, at the Xi’an Art Museum (2010), etc.
Major awards and honors include a shortlisting for the Andy Warhol Foundation’s Short Form Writing Award (2012), the inaugural Yishu Award for Critical Writing on Contemporary Chinese Art (2010), a university-wide Teaching Effectiveness Award (1996) and Departmental Citation for teaching at UC Berkeley (1995). She was a most recently a fellow and seminar commentator at the HWK Anthropocene Campus, Berlin (2014); UC Berkeley graduate research fellow (2002/2004), a UCB Institute of East Asian Studies research fellow (2003), Social Science Research Council IPFP fellow (1995-1996), a Foreign Language and Area Studies fellow (1995, Russia; 1996, China), and Berkeley Program in Soviet and Post-Soviet Studies fellow (1993-1995, 1997-1998), etc. She is fluent in Mandarin Chinese, Russian, German and American English, and is now learning Hindi and Urdu.