• Date
      2017.03.04 - 05.28
    • Artist
      Li Xiaofei
    • Curator
  • Links
  • Images

Seven Necessities - An Assembly Line Project

“The Seven Necessities” is a concept dating back to the Song Dynasty. The expression 开门七件事:柴米油盐酱醋茶, “kai men qi jian shi: chai, mi, you, yan, jiang, cu, cha” refers to necessities required for the Chinese home; firewood, rice, oil, soy sauce, vinegar and tea. The modern version is a shorthand: 油盐酱醋 “you yan jiang cu” — the culinary necessities; oil, salt, soy sauce and vinegar. Like many commodities, these things are simple, yet behind them lies a complex matrix of labour, supply, commodity prices and governmental regulations. 
Li Xiaofei began his video work with salt. He soon discovered that table salt is the least profitable product derived from the salt-making process. This discovery led him to expand his concept to a wider range of raw materials like silver, zinc, copper and coal. In extended series of video works titled Argentum, A Cart of Coal and A Bag of Salt, Li Xiaofei examines the processes required for their production.
The landscapes, bleached of color, coated in dust and shrouded in smog feel alien. The colours reflect the impact of human activities brought to bear here. A similar patina covers the faces of aged workers seen in A Cart of Coal, which explores the working conditions in unregulated mines that operate antiquated equipment. In a similar vein, Argentum takes as its subject the unsavoury working environment of the uneducated labour force at a silver smelting factory. Touching on socio-economic issues, Li Xiaofei’s conversations with the workers are underscored by what is not said. The smoky environment reflecting the opacity and shifting nature of the economic system. 
Beyond the narratively oriented works focusing on raw material extraction, Li Xiaofei takes viewers up the value chain into factories, revealing the frenetic motion of textile looms, ventilator fans and flurries of feathers swirling around the face of a pillow factory worker. The repetitive, churning movement of the individual videos is repeated endlessly along the moving assembly line. In this way, Li Xiaofei show the “seven necessities” as elements of the larger industrial cycle, which turns raw materials into products, and by-products. The images combine to a metaphor for the “production” of labour that keeps each household stocked with the seven necessities.

The exhibition runs from March 4 to May 28, 2017.

OCAT Xi'an would like to thank Jacky Yue and Rebecca Catching for their assistance with Li Xiaofei’s project, and VART onlion exhibition platform made the audio guide system for the exhibition.

About the Artist
Li Xiaofei (b.1973) is a Chinese artist who lives and works in Shanghai and New York. He graduated from the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts. Li has received grants from the Iaspis International Residency (Sweden) and the Asian Cultural Council (USA). Li’s work has been featured in exhibitions internationally, including: in 2016 Fundamental 5. Mediations Biennale Poznań, Poland; in 2015 Barents Spektakel and the 5th Japan Nakanojo Biennale; in 2014 “Social Factory: The 10th Shanghai Biennale”; The 8th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art”; “60th International Short Film Festival Oberhausen”; and in 2013 “Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture” Shenzhen; and “Descriptive Acts” and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, USA in 2012.


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