Documented by Alessandro Olla in Fuyang, Zhejiang (富阳). 


         On a visit to southeastern China in August 2012, I filmed a series of site-specific performances in several industrial and textile factories. Borrowing from the Communist-era practice of singing to factory workers in order to motivate them to greater production, I sang Part of Your World from Walt Disney’s The Little Mermaid. In the context of China’s ongoing and massive cultural and economic transition, the lyrics serve as multi-layered metaphors for the complex relationship between western consumer societies and developing economies.
         While The Little Mermaid created a fantasy world for girls of my generation, it also provided us with an ideological frame. In Part of Your World, the young mermaid Ariel explains that despite the numerous discarded artifacts she has collected from the human world, she is unsatisfied. Her desire for “more” is an expression of the forces that drive western capitalism. Sung in the location where much of what I own was produced, my performance contrasts the construction of girlhood fantasies in the West with the grim reality of the Chinese workers who produce the objects of those fantasies.
         Beyond Ariel’s desire for material possessions, she laments her inability to access the freedom and knowledge of the human world. The lyrics in turn echo the repression of workers' rights and freedom of speech, the widespread abortions of female fetuses under China’s one-child policy and reflect both the economic ambitions of the Chinese and ongoing calls for social and political freedom. Ariel eventually gives up her voice to become human - reflecting the internal devaluation of China’s cultural legacy and the homogenizing power of market forces.  Ariel's rejection of her mermaid identity and her idealization of the world above water is an expression of hatred of self as other. How much is China willing to sacrifice to transition into a modern society?
         Characterized by cultural and linguistic barriers, the absurdity of the performance expresses both the intended and subverted meanings of the song. Whether delivered comically or in a grim and somber tone, the performance is entirely ignored by the factory workers, so that my figure appears photo-shopped into the frame. The workers’ [non] reaction captures the control, repression and silence surrounding many of the problems in Chinese society.  Like many aspects of globalized production and consumption, it is uncomfortable to watch.

screenshot from video/performance #4

screenshot from video/performance #6

screenshot from video/performance #2

screenshot from video/performance #3

screenshot from video/performance #5

screenshot from video/performance #6

screenshot from video/performance #3


  • This piece is displayed on six old, discarded television sets - each playing a different looped version of the performance. When played simultaneously, the song goes in and out of sync, as the pace, mood, and background noises vary in each video.


  • Alessandro Olla, Luca Zordon, Ying Xiaodon (应晓东),  and Shi Chengyan(施城燕)for your assistance and friendship.
  • Financial support by Sunhoo Industrial Design Park (圣泓) greatly acknowledged.