01/18/2013 02:32 pm ET Updated Jan 18, 2013

What Is An IPad Doing At A Chinese Art Museum?

The Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing has an intriguing new take on China's place in the debate over Apple, iPhones, and the people who make them. While Americans hash out the moral ups and downs of having our electronics produced by Chinese factory hands, a young performance artist named Li Liao decided to jump into the middle of it. He got an assembly-line job making iPads, and forty-five days later he used his wages to buy one. As an exhibit, he put the iPad on a pedestal, tacked up his uniform and badges, and framed his contract. The effect, on a white gallery wall, is a strangely addictive ready-made tableau about the intersection of money, aspiration, and technology. I watched two young men separately linger over it for very different reasons: one was a hip Chinese gallerygoer in chunky glasses and a camel-hair coat, taking it all in; the other was a gallery security guard in a borrowed suit and white gloves. He was studying the details of the contract.

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