Chronicling the viewpoint that China’s migrant factory workers “own the city” through numbers and labor, London based Chinese artist Jin Aowen depicted the life of female workers in 2020, when some estimate China as the largest world economy. The project, titled Mobiles: The Changing Profile of Young Female Migrant Workers in China, began in April with a month long visit to Dongguan. “I was working with factory girls whose wages weren’t paid – who got robbed. I [gave] them the opportunity to express themselves, without causing them trouble with the authorities,” said Jin.
Studio photographs showed the women’s fantasy futures, “whether it was to open a nail bar, becoming an English translator or running an alcohol factory,” she said “The identities of these migrant workers have changed in the past ten to 20 years, yet our perception of them has stayed the same.”
In a creative and interactive fashion, photographs were taken by the participants’ mobile phones as makeup was removed, portraying the reversal from fantasy to reality, donating the phones to the exhibition. “Viewers are invited to touch and play with these mobile phones to discover more about these factory girls,” said Jin.
Research spanning two years was recorded by volunteers from the Mother’s Bridge, a British charity that helps adopted Chinese children discover their heritage, and will culminate in an exhibition tour starting this September in London and travelling through New York and China.