“[For me,] the Assembly Line series is like a portal to dozens of unknown universes.”
Born 1973, Yongxing, Hunan. Lives and works in Shanghai
Li Xiaofei believes the contemporary world is obsessed with rationality at the expense of imagination, artifice at the expense of nature. His ongoing Assembly Line project (2010– ) reflects on the interactions between these opposites—the yang and the yin of the age of mechanical production—through videos and photographs of factory workers, processes, and machines. At the editing stage, he deliberately switches between “human, machine, human, machine,” he says, “provoking a sense of reality that is objectively accurate yet at the same time imaginary”. The results are filled with paradoxes. Humans are the opposite of machines in almost every respect, yet on the assembly line they often seem to merge. The machines and their products and waste products are often beautiful in their orderliness, and their remorselessly regular movements have an almost lifelike rhythm. Their operators can appear almost robotic, but the videos introduce them as unique individuals. While some find their jobs tedious and imprisoning, others find them as rewarding and see their machines as allies or even friends.