March 13, 2012 Author: Johan Nieuwenhuize
Made in China. The title alone already hints at consumerism being a central topic for this book by Johan Nieuwenhuize. Containing a not so obvious mix of self-portraits, still lives and landscapes, Made in China is Nieuwenhuize’s documentation of three months living in China amongst migrant workers and their possessions. However, it is not an ordinary reportage. The photographer / artist at times composed his own still lives out of scrap material, in this way putting his “own” mark on the surroundings he found himself in. With this project, Nieuwenhuize broaches on the value of personal property, and the way objects can reflect on a person’s identity. Besides this, as an outsider in China, Nieuwenhuize tried to identify himself with the Chinese working class and their culture. In order to experience the feeling of wearing fake clothing, a wide spread phenomenon there, Nieuwenhuize had his designer clothing remade. While wearing the remade ensembles, he then copied typical behavioral manners of Chinese migrant workers in front of the camera. The book is an investigation of a foreign attachment to “things”, from a personal as well as a conceptual point of view.
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Reviewed by Sofia Caycedo.