This latest work in the “Assembly Line” series delves further into the topic of transformative effect of globalization upon people, nature and communities. As if skating along a meridian, Li Xiaofei traverses the globe from North to South, examining the tidal flows of labour and resources, as countries both developed and developing respond to the challenges of the global economy.
This newest set of videos features some pieces in his earlier “interview” mode of working but also other works which can be characterized by the “aesthetics of machines” mode. Combined together they look at the fetishistic attitudes towards consumer goods and the lives of those who produce them in a global context. We see the worker in various different forms, idealized with glamour lighting, shot in a straightforward way—which leaves little room for job envy—and humanized through the telling of their personal stories.
Strangely enough it was visiting the the placid quiet remote fishing village of Kirkenes, Norway which offered one of the best windosw into many of the issues associated with globalization. On a slippery wet floor, big plastic crates full of king crabs shuttle back and forth as men dressed head to toe in thick plastic water-proof clothing casually grab a giant claw and toss sci-fi sized crustaceans into the appropriate bin. The camera takes in stunning tangles of nets, a still life of gloves hanging on the wall and the eerily moving mouth of the crab—its claws shackled, its eyes staring blankly as it waits for its demise. There is something foreboding in this. How different are we really from crabs in bins if we fail to realize the limits of the environment?