Xing Danwen

disCONNEXION, 2002/03

My intention is to sketch a visual representation of 21st-century modernity. I carefully choose direct and intimate moments to portray the objects that I find. The aesthetic beauty of the imagery almost transports the photographed objects from their social and economic context. But I cannot forget the facts and the reality of what I see.

Since summer 2002, I traveled several times to South China’s Guangdong Province, one of the most developed areas in the country. Along the coast, more than 100,000 people from Guangdong, as well as migrant workers from Western China, make their living by recycling piles of computer and electronic trash, operating in rough environmental and social conditions. This huge amount of e-trash is shipped from industrialized countries—Japan, South Korea and from the United States, the largest exporter of e-trash—and dumped here. We reside in the Information and Communication Era and therefore we rely, extensively, on these high-tech facilities in our modern life. Machines become deeply rooted in our daily activities, replacing the old ways of doing things. Millions of newly purchased products replace millions of discarded ones. Confronted with vast piles of dead and deconstructed machines; the overwhelming number of cords, wires, chips and parts; the clear indication of the company names, model numbers and even individual employees, I felt shocked.

Modernization and globalization shape urban development. In China, I have experienced and witnessed the changes that have taken place under the influence of Western modernity. These changes have contributed to a strong and powerful push for development in my country, but at the same time these forces are complicit in creating the environmental and social nightmare experienced in remote corners of China.
I have lived overseas, and I have traveled back and forth frequently between my mother country and the West. It has informed my awareness of the conflicts between modernity and tradition, dreams and reality. These themes have taken on greater significance in both my artistic practice and in my personal concerns and have resulted in disCONNEXION.

This body of work is comprised of over 40 images. A number identifies each work. The concept is to combine multiple images and create an installation that conveys the immensity of the problem as well as the unbearable details I witnessed in these e-wastelands.