Josefine Baark’s recent research has traced the production and provenance of Chinese musical and mechanical models in Europe. She is interested in how miniature automata combined aesthetically pleasing design with their consumers’ tacit knowledge of the unseen, mechanical interior. Such tactile and beautiful technologies play a major part in how people view and respond to the world, whether it be Chinese automata or other intricately designed devices, such as a smartphone. She has used the dialectic by which inventions borrowed from one culture are adopted to suit another in the process of aesthetic hybridization as a basis for exploring how the processes and rituals by which techno-aesthetic ideas circulating in early modern global trade could be governed by the culturally commensurable concept that socio-political structures could be reflected in miniature models.
After receiving her PhD from the University of Cambridge in 2015, she lectured at the Department of Fine Art at the University of Hong Kong and worked as Visiting Assistant Professor at Lingnan University in her hometown of Hong Kong. There, she lectured on the relationship between the arts and sciences and conducted research into collections of mechanical clockwork in Asian museums. From 2017 to 2018, she was a Mad Øvlisen Post-Doctoral Fellow at the University of Copenhagen, where she hosted a workshop on the history of technology in art and produced a full-length documentary. She has also received a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship at the History of Art Department at the University of Warwick, where she will be pursuing her research into British, French and Dutch collections of early modern exotic automata. In 2019, she will be producing a second documentary film, focused on the clockwork found in the Palace Museum in Beijing, supported by a grant from the SC Van Foundation and the UK-China Humanities Alliance.