Disposable Lighters - Apple

Li Ming


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9 channel video (colour, sound),iPads, speakers, vinyl wall text, disposable lighter fragments
Channel 1: 1 min 50 sec
Channel 2: 5 min 04 sec
Channel 3: 5 min 10 sec
Channel 4: 10 min 02 sec
Channel 5: 11 min 45 sec
Channel 6: 6 min 34 sec
Channel 7: 9 min 26 sec
Channel 8: 7 min 52 sec
Channel 9: 27 min 57 sec
With Disposable Lighters – Apple (2014–16) Li Ming has documented one aspect of China’s ‘economic miracle’ and provided a compelling insight into the human scale of mass production. Wondering about the origins of the millions of disposable cigarette lighters used and discarded each year, Li Ming discovered that the largest production centre in China is in Xiayi County in Henan Province. It is typical for Chinese towns and cities to specialize in the production of a single product, handbags, for instance, or buttons, or taps, or tyres; the rural Guizhou village of Yiwu, for example, produces sixty percent of the world’s Christmas decorations. Li chose just one factory in Xiayi County and commissioned some lighters, documenting the production process from start to finish. Video footage shows unnerving, improvisational approaches to factory production on a small scale – many Xiayi villagers had turned their houses into factories. Vats are filled with dye, machines spit out lighter parts and fill them with inflammable fluid, aproned women sort and pack thousands of lighters, old women sweep them into sacks.
The ironic insertion of a version of the famous ‘Apple’ logo on Li Ming’s commissioned lighters is a riff on the claim that vast amounts of information are contained in something so thin, light and glamorous as their devices. In contrast to the sophistication and high design of an i-phone, Li and his friends were remembering the kitsch lighters given as promotional gifts by companies in the 1990s, sometimes featuring scantily clad women. Finally, the commissioned lighters were destroyed: Li Ming recorded the inhabitants of the local village throwing them down so forcefully that they exploded like firecrackers. Li Ming is not only documenting daily life but intervening in it to provide unexpected moments of joyous anarchy amidst the relentless cycle of production, consumption and disposal.
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