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An Escape from the Existing Principles: From Man vs. Machine to Dogma and Exaggeration  

Author: XIAO Kayu萧开愚 Translator: Chongjun LIAO廖崇骏


In his Assembly Line series ( 流水线,2010-2020), Li Xiaofei ( 李消非 ) examines the workflows of Chinese factory workers, managers, and factory owners in comparison with those in western countries, which presented people with an impression that ‘workflows are commensurate with the corresponding way of life’, and the work in the Chinese factories was onerous yet important. In I Am the People ( 我是一群人,2019- 2022), however, Xiaofei adopted a different approach by investigating the same group of people through the lens of independent intellectuals, which further brought up such issues as overcapacity and the dire need of consumption.

As such, by placing both the subject and the object of examination under one roof, Xiaofei effectively unveils a universal situation, that is, for knowledge-generating individuals who are often critical and self-obsessed, their opinions are likely to be homogeneous and stereotypical.

That said, those ‘silent characters’ in Xiaofei’s work would still be the viewers’ concern, regardless of the shared context. An artist as an individual is defined by what they can see; an artist is defined by what they want others to see. In this sense, whatever the viewers can see would eventually cause certain confusions: to struggle in the state of excess.

Keywords: Li Xiaofei, Assembly Line, I Am the People.