Saturday, July 30, 2011

made in china

I first heard about idea of the hand of the artist when I was interning at the Purgatory Pie Press last summer. We were talking about letterpress and Esther said that one of the things that her husband Dikko loves about letterpress is how you can really see the imprint of each individual piece of type in a work. You can see all of the little imperfections, the e's that are slightly worn or the n's that press just a little harder into the paper than the rest. These things show that an item was made by hand, assembled from small pieces into something much bigger and grander than its singular parts. Sometimes the hand of the artist can be used as an excuse for something to be made poorly (it looks handmade!) but other times purposely leaving a fingerprint on something you've created can be a fun and intentional way to literally leave your mark on something you've made.

I've often felt like the hand of the artist is missing in the average American life. Sometimes it seems as if everything we buy is packaged in sterile plastic, having been assembled using mindless, faceless workers or robotic machines to produce and deliver it right to our homes. Lorena Turner, however, completely challenges this common conception with her series of photographs entitled Made In China.

A plastic case of needles, covered in fingerprints.

Turner goes to a store and buys items that were made in China. Then she goes home, dusts them for fingerprints and photographs them under a black light. Look at all the hands that have touched this one item! It is both eerie and incredible simultaneously. Is it bad that it makes me feel a little bit like I should wipe down every purchase I make from a store with a disinfectant wipe? (Keep in mind that I do not have this feeling about things I buy second hand or find on the side of the road. Hmmmm.... there is clearly a bit of a disconnect here...)

I found out about Turner via the Etsy Blog and one comment made on the site really struck me. Here's what it said:
(Click to enlarge)

"Those fingerprints are from mothers' hands, brothers' hands." Isn't that beautiful? I think it is easy for us to dehumanize Chinese workers and think of them just as faceless, black-haired drones, but they aren't: they are people, just like we are. And they make things, too. Things that have become common place in our lives. Maybe we should be a little more grateful for their hard work instead of judging them for taking away American jobs: that's not their fault, they are just trying to feed their families, just like the rest of us.

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