Curatorial mutiny presents a new project in China called "Assured Stability." When artist Li Xiaofei talks to industrial workers. They often express that there is an “assured stability." They mean that there is stable employment, medical care, pension - everything is secured. Their point of view might seem superficial at first glance, but behind this expression of a human desire we find a deeply rooted anxiety about how to survive.
"Assured Stability"— the clear and yet somewhat mundane words possess a sense of universality. We all understand and share the dream of tomorrow remaining bright and trouble free. Still, there is another side to the words that suggest that each individual only becomes a part of an economical system, a cog in a wheel of a seemingly meaningless giant machine of society. And that image can slowly eat its way into our consciousness like a virus. Maybe we find ourselves in a situation where everything has improved on the surface and yet our lives have become empty and meaningless?
Large parts of Chinese society have developed into a web of large factories of mass production in the recent decades of economical development. The artists in the exhibition Assured Stability offer different interpretations of what they can draw from this process. The artists who originate from Northern Europe live in countries with the most developed social and economical security on the planet. They have since long lived what Chinese workers call "guaranteed stability." The artists have expressed some difficulty in understanding the widespread and “simple aspirations." Still they use their artistic methods and experience to explore contemporary society. They try to make sense of a world in constant and violent flux and full of paradoxes—this is not only related to the demands of standard industrialized societies, but is also an expression of a kind of cruelty and beauty.
The works on display in the exhibition raise questions about the scenes of production as well as the relationship between the producers and society as a whole. They investigate states of consciousness; reflect on how human values inform how we experience the flow of time and of life. They question how ethics inform directly or indirectly relate to our world, to our own personal "assured stability."
Assured Stability forms a part of About Assembly Line which has been developed by Chinese artist Li Xiaofei and was on view during the 8th Berlin Biennale. LI has documented over a hundred large factories and medium- scale industrial units, particularly in China’s Yangtze River Delta as well as in other parts of the world. His mise-en-scène deliberately merges artistic and documentary language, combining interview-style videos with stylized sequences revealing industrial processes and the daily operations of factories. In multichannel video installations and photographic works from the project such as A Foreign Boss (2010), A Packet of Salt (2013), A Printing Worker (2010), A Sales Manager (2012), and A Womens’ Federation Director (2011), the artist stitches together a narrative from disparate protagonists. These “characters” reveal the fundamental connection between the routines of mechanized production, the translation of management theory into the disciplining of the labor force, and the commodities that are ultimately produced through this “optimization” of human capital. Assembly Line offers us a candid insight into contemporary production sites that largely remain sealed off from public view.
For Li Xiaofei, the assembly line represents a repetitive, identical, mechanical and even unemotional means of production, one which efficiently and rapidly expands the value of production to the utmost. Such repetition and sameness do not refer merely to machines but also include the workers living amid all this as well as the final products. The assembly lines in factories seem to protect a fundamental order of social systems on the surface through validating the means of production. Given this sense of order, what is unexpected is that he even senses a collective Romanticism. Order exists at once inside and outside their bodies while possessing a sense of reality beyond that of the everyday.
To this point, Assembly Line Project has dissociated from the original notion of “assembly line” in the factory and become a complex creation system with wider social significance. This project aim to establish a platform for scholars from various disciplines to study and explore the associations and extensions of “assembly line” in an open way and to seek wider cooperation with different artists, curators and critics during different stages.
Assured Stability—an exhibition part of the Assembly Line project
Private View: May 30, 2015, 3pm-7pm
Exhibition open to the public: May 30 - July 30, 2015, 10am-6pm.
Venue: V ART CENTER, No.50 Mo Gan Shan Rd, Shanghai.
Artists: Guo Qingling, Lise Yuen, Li Xiaofei and Per Hüttner
Art Director: Chao Jiaxing
Curator: Assembly Line Projects Studio
Organization: V ART CENTER, Fei Contemporary Art Center (FCAC)
Partners: The Consulate General of Norway in Shanghai, Curatorial Mutiny and Vision Forum