Artist’s impression of the Sky City One in Changsha

The Sky City One in Changsha, China, aims to be the tallest skyscraper in the world, rising 202-storeys into the hazy Hunan sky. The skyscraper will be located smack in the middle of the Hunan countryside, roughly 16 kilometers (10 miles) northwest of Changsha downtown in what is currently a wetland along the banks of the Xiangjiang River. It is due for completion in June, 2013. Sky City One, according to environmental architect Lloyd Alter, will be taller, greener, faster and cheaper.

We are by now used to huge, tall skyscrapers dotting China’s cities and even the countryside. It is almost standard practice to transform China from its shady past to glamorous modernity. It seems as long as China has the biggest of everything in the world, surely it must be the best place on earth. In the meantime taste, style, culture and tradition are often lost in this simplified pursuit of size.

However this attitude is deeply rooted in Chinese culture. In China, size matters! Chinese people compete to have the biggest gold rings, the biggest jade stones, the biggest diamond…. Now the whole car industry benefits from China’s never ending demand for ‘something bigger’.

I am glad China has thought about building an environmentally friendly building but I hope one day we can go one step further to understand what is impressive about being Chinese rather than focusing only on size.


My upcoming exhibition explores the dreams, goals and ambitions of factory girls working in the main Chinese manufacturing hubs. Over the last month I have been based in the town of Humen – which is the capital of China’s clothes-making industry. This sneak preview from my making-of documentary introduces the town and its population.

Migrant Workers Gangnam Style

Of the thousands of people around the world who have tried to copy the popular Gangnam style dance, I have to say that this version by Chinese workers has the most profound political and social impact – they did not do it for fun but, did it to generate publicity in order to get their wages paid.

Recently Chinese migrant workers have staged thousands of protests relating to their pay, work conditions and their treatment across China’s booming cities. With the fast and broad spread of information and social media in China today, more and more Chinese migrant workers are aware of how to mobilize different channels to promote and highlight their causes. They are very conscious of the power of media in promoting the their own personal stories.

I feel very encouraged by these changes. These people no longer feel neglected and powerless because of their social status; they are the new breed of Chinese people who understand their value and who would push the urgently needed reform in China. This change of attitude and ideas give me the strength to help them have their voice heard.

I couldn’t wait to work with them in April on my new art project to discover more about these individuals. I am sure they will produce something unique and special to them rather than just copying the ubiquitous Gangnam Style.