Photos by Joep Jacobs and Boudewijn Bollmann
15" Sand Economy
The WWF calls Poyang Lake “the largest sand mine in the world”. Poyang Lake is also China’s largest freshwater reservoir flowing into the Yangtze river about 600 kilometers upstream of Shanghai. For many years, sand from the Yangtze river was dredged to make cement to construct the megacity Shanghai. Chinese authorities banned dredging activities along the Yangtze in 2000 and started working to reduce similar industries around Poyang Lake from April 2008.
The Chinese government has issued policies limiting sand dredging and has centralised the management of the area by limiting the duration of individual extraction activities. This crisis in the sand economy in Poyang Lake is changing the life of the region’s inhabitants. While traditional media don’t allow a thorough understanding of the sand crisis in Poyang Lake, 15” Sand Economy is based on research conducted entirely inside the social media application TikTok, looking for perspectives of independent sand-related businesses advertising and showing their work, process and product through the 15” video platform.
Documenting the main elements on which the app is based: name of users, geolocation of media, the performative aspects of both videos and sound and the repetition of actions, to which the platform lends its success, Yanjin Wu set up a database of more than 400 videos. Exploring individual sand-businesses outside of the mainstream economy of sand extraction, 15” Sand Economy opens up a view to the multiple relationship which workers have with sand as a fundamental economic resource. The combination of this “alternative” sand economy and TikTok videos reveals the complexity and absurdity of this scenario, shining a spotlight on the sand crisis and its impact on the wellbeing of communities.
124 users from Douyin/TikTok China, including (Douyin ID): 2241030516, 1779588281, xcw88888888xcw, 182628438, 1609707733, dyec3raj5rro, dynwn6nnw64p, wh15979993222, 198811058639, 330938400, 213158314, SJ18827688166, 139930022, 1106471789, hubei0713, 111855857, yyy1577999996, 113265524, 1125374125, 203078392, 340206163, lqlovelny1314, 61926766, Dy6hgu11z5sn, 139930022, 18066258444t, 379621808, haijin1396086033, 1175551412, Luozhen3656, 1495469079, ttkx152212..., qd1s20, 4055449, V17607000704, 18066258444t, 837654983, and more
Read an interview with Yanjin Wu on TikTok Confessions on Poyang Lake Link
Chris Carpenter, "Temperate Broadleaf and Mixed Forests: Southern Asia, in China," World Wildlife Fund, 2020. Link
"Crazy Sand: Behind the Exorbitant Price," CCTV2 News, January 22, 2016. Link
David Stanway, "Fishermen cry foul as China bids to fix drought-hit lake," ABS/CBN News, December 20, 2019. Link
"News Survey: Less Mining and Higher Price," CCTV News, July 22, 2019. Link
Oli Brown and Pascal Peduzzi, "Driven to Extraction: Can Sand Mining be Sustainable?" Hoffmann Centre, May 30, 2019. Link
"Rising demand for sand calls for resource governance," WWF, May 7, 2019. Link
Shi Peng, "Jiangxi Five Rivers One Lake Dredging Plan," Jiangnan City News, January 11, 2019. Link
"The Five Rivers One Lake Dredging Plan in Jiangxi Province," People’s Government of Jiangxi Province, January 13, 2019. Link
UNEP, Sand and sustainability: Finding new solutions for environmental governance of global sand resources (Geneva: United Nations Environment Programme, 2019). Link
Zhang Xue, "采砂船切割申请大限已到 将对非法采砂高压严打," Sina Jiangxi, March 4, 2013. Link
"江西切割淘汰848艘采砂船," People's Daily, December 28, 2016. Link
"余干县：严厉打击非法采砂 保护鄱阳湖一湖清水," Sina, April 2, 2019. Link
Yanjin Wu makes installation from found objects, cheap and everyday life materials. Her work engages the viewer through the theme of overabundance in media and production, exploring issues of critical economy and policy that are being shaped by both individual and social memory.