Factory Research Trip to China, 2013
Over two weeks in November 2013, Kay Abude visited factories in the three important manufacturing cities of Guangzhou, Dongguan and Shenzhen in Southern China. Witnessing different methods of production and levels of labour in garment, shoe, toy and furniture manufacturing, the work performed on these factory floors was impressively relentless. At the surface were highly seductive panoramic views capturing mesmerising hives of activity. Tasks perceived to be mechanically produced or processes carried out by computerised machines were in fact completed by hand. Scenes of workers labouring mountains of material were locked into standardised sequences of movements. As a viewer, this powerful vitality is difficult to contest, as one can easily surrender to the colourfully detailed, rapidly fluid, dreamlike world of the factory. However, this aestheticised façade has an underlying reality that is punishing for its workers. Trapped in a limbo of working excessively long days, in a working week spanning 60 to 70 hours, the workers themselves were expressionless. They were neither pleased nor displeased with the work being undertaken as the occurrence of work inside the factories appeared to be infinite. The strong and committed work ethic of the Chinese people has ultimately become their lifestyle.
Abude’s research trip to China was supported by an Australia Council 2013 Art Start Grant.