Made in China, by artist Sui Jianguo focuses on China's exportation of goods. Jianguo’s intention is to get viewers to consider who is making a product, where it is going, and why. Jianguo stated about China's economic expanse "in some ways is not good for China, for the environment and human life... I don't want him (the red dinosaur) to continue getting bigger."
Let’s think about how consumerism (something that encourages the acquisition of goods and services in ever-increasing amounts) might affect you personally. Do you have belongings that you actually need or are they things you just want? Why do we want the things we want? What influences our buying decisions? Do your belongings align with your values as a person? Oftentimes, when you know more information about something, it can result in greater appreciation of the thing, idea, or person, and even perhaps change its value in your life.
- Think about an object that you own
- Draw or trace your object on a piece of paper—don't worry about making it perfect!
- List and label all the parts of that belonging (for example: sunglasses – plastic lenses, plastic frames, tiny metal screws.)
- Now research each item that makes up your object. What is it made of? Where is it manufactured? Who makes it?
- After researching all the parts of your object, reflect on it with the following questions:
- How do you feel now that you know more about your belonging?
- What is it like to understand all the steps that going into making it?
- How does having more knowledge about your object inform how you value it?
- If given the choice, would you buy your object again?
- Share your findings and reflections with a friend, family member or classmate.
Another part of consumerism is thinking about the ethics of how things are manufactured. Here is an article about ethical manufacturing called, "What Is Ethical Manufacturing and Why Should I Care?" Read the article and considering the following conversation questions:
- Think about someone who works in a factory which produces something used often by people. How do you picture the conditions that the factory employees work in?
- If you were to be in charge of a factory, what things would be important to you? (i.e., working conditions, environmentally friendly/less waste, fair employee compensation, quality of product, etc.)
- What makes you want to buy something? Is it about how it looks? What it’s made of? How popular it is? Who created it?
- What are the pros and cons of consumerism in your opinion?
Related Creativity Resources
Marie Watt is a multidisciplinary artist who engages communities in the creation of her work. As a citizen of the Seneca Nation, Watt models her approach on Indigenous ways of sharing knowledge and learning. For this piece, she asked individuals from the local Denver community to contribute a blanket along with its story.