Bottled Factory Workers
How to archive ‘sound’ in a more engaging and contextual way? This work employs the factory sounds which the ethnographer Xinyuan Wang recorded in the factory where her informants worked and she lived for 15 months. It is a combination of the real-life sounds with images of the factory workers. Just like the factory where those rural migrants work and the place where they live, the small space of the glass bottle is stuffed with people and filled with noise. Factories not only produce goods but also ‘factory workers’. No matter who you are, where you come from, and why you are happy or upset, one’s personal stories and emotions are overwhelmed and flooded by the roar of machines on the assembly line and the scale of the factory itself. So in this exhibit we find them crammed into a mass of other people and deafening sounds.
The Field Note
This painting folding booklet is 31.5cm * 384cm, which consists of 20 small paintings (31.5cm* 16cm), on traditional Chinese rice paper. The Rice paper folding booklet is one of the traditional forms of archive in China. Here this archiving technique has been redeployed for creating a series of autobiographical field stories documenting my ethnography, The 20 individual paintings, record my field work in a small factory town in southeastern China. Stories include how to make local friends, how to deal with unexpected problems, gain information, keep a balance between work and life, etc. The tradition of incorporating calligraphy within painting is used here to write my ethnographic field notes that accompany the subject of each painting. This series is intended not only for anthropologists who may have some familiarity with these stories, but also for people who are curious about anthropology and would like to know how an anthropologist works at her field site.
The ethnography is of the world’s largest ever migration, more than 200 million rural Chinese who have moved into new factory towns. Funded by Wenner-Gren foundation, I conducted 15 months of field work living inside one such factory town in southeast China exploring the daily life of Chinese factory workers and their usage of social media.
Xinyuan Wang was originally trained in classical Chinese painting and calligraphy, and currently working as a PhD student at the Department of Anthropology at UCL . Her project is a part of the Global Social Media Impact Study, and her research is funded by Wenner-gren foundation.