Simon Starling
‘The Nanjing Particles (After Henry Ward, View of C.T. Sampson's Shoe Manufactory, with the Chinese Shoemakers in working Costume, ca. 1875)’

Installation view 'The Nanjing Particles', MASS Museum of Contemporary Art, North Adams, Massachusetts, 2008
Forged stainless steel, B&W Inkjet print
Sculptures 200 x 420 x 150 cm; 200 x 450 x 170 cm, inkjet print 6 x 13 m 200 x 450 x 170 cm

Originally developed for Mass MOCA this artwork attempts to collapse the particular labour history of the former industrial town of North Adams, Massachusetts onto current global trends in manufacture. Two silver particles, from a pair of stereoscopic photographs from 1875 of a group of Chinese migrant workers outside the Sampson shoe factory, were extracted from the prints’ emulsion, and working with scientists in nearby Albany, New York, 3-D images of the silver particles were created with the aid of a one million volt electron microscope. The scanned images of the particles were then translated into computer renderings from which three-dimensional models were produced. These models of the tiny image fragments were then replicated as immensely enlarged sculptural objects, one million times their original size, forged in mirror-finish stainless steel in Nanjing, China and finally exhibited back in the post-industrial setting of Mass MOCA’s vast exhibition space.