CHICAGO — There’s a 50 square mile area in China between Chendian Town, Chaonan and Gurao Town where most of the brassieres in the world are produced. It is with fascination and awareness of this global market that artist Priscilla Briggs embarked upon her photo series The Road to Shantou to tell a story of one aspect of China’s industrial revolution.
Briggs’ series highlights the billboards that line the road to Shantou — the models pictured are nearly nude, and almost exclusively white European women, which is contrasted with the Chinese text. Through her lens, the pieces become a comment on the West’s dependence on Chinese labor. In her portraits of both male and female factory workers, she portrays them as very much human and dignified, which is a rather stark contrast to this assortment of depressing images of Apple factory workers.
Briggs’ series brings a Western consumer’s eye to these brasserie factories, considering this mixture of cultures and commodities within a context global consumer capitalism. American artists Katie Parker and Guy Davis spent a month-long residency at the Pottery Workshop in Jingdezhen, China, and a tongue-in-cheek Mao influence found its way into their work — a monkey, for example, appears wearing a mask of the revolutionary’s face. But for Briggs, China remains the subject of her work which continues investigating China’s gap between communism and capitalism as evidenced by the proliferation of nail house, among other relics in the rapidly industrializing country.