Next to Alibaba, the Huaqiangbei Electronics Market (HQB) in Shenzhen is probably the most recognisable symbol of trade in China: known for its size, density, and diversity of products, it is also famous as a laboratory for the innovative prototyping and modification of smartphone technology, due to the high levels of expertise, insider knowledge, and collaboration among its vendors (not to mention their bargain rates). Alibaba and HQB have a complex relationship: while Alibaba’s online platform has reduced footfall in physical marketplaces, especially from foreign customers, HQB is more flexi…
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Exhibition Debut

Photos by Peter Cox and Kiki Mager

Qin 親 [Hello Friend]

Kiki Mager

Next to Alibaba, the Huaqiangbei Electronics Market (HQB) in Shenzhen is probably the most recognisable symbol of trade in China: known for its size, density, and diversity of products, it is also famous as a laboratory for the innovative prototyping and modification of smartphone technology, due to the high levels of expertise, insider knowledge, and collaboration among its vendors (not to mention their bargain rates). Alibaba and HQB have a complex relationship: while Alibaba’s online platform has reduced footfall in physical marketplaces, especially from foreign customers, HQB is more flexible than Alibaba in relation to international regulations including customs, intellectual property, and trade agreements. Vendors listed on Alibaba with locations at HQB are rarely found there in person, and vice versa.

This project uses the iPhone 7 Plus as a test subject to explore the formal and informal structures and relations of the HQB and Alibaba markets and to map the interaction of consumers, vendors, factory workers, and technology giants like Apple. This phone was also the sole research tool used to document and collect the research. In the process of collecting the components necessary to assemble an iPhone 7 Plus, a new understanding develops around the smartphone: it is no longer a self-enclosed, fixed, branded object of desire but a collection of miscellaneous parts including factory off-cuts, imitations, ad-hoc solutions, aesthetic disguises, and proofs of authenticity.

Read an interview with Kiki Mager on Craftsmanship in Huaqiangbei Electronics Market

Credits

Translation (Shenzhen): Christopher Hoi Wong

Network (Shenzhen): Li Liao, David Li, Vicky Xie

Repair Shop (HQB, Shenzhen): Mr. Liang, Mr. Li

iPhone Dealer (Shenzhen): Li X.

iPhone Components (HQB, Shenzhen): Lisa, Lily

HQB Alibaba (Shenzhen): Amy, Mily, Jessica, Ally

Guangzhou Alibaba: Richard

Repair Shop (Den Haag, NL): Yasir

Sound Editing (NL): Marylou Petot

3D Technology (US): Marek

Additional Material

Interview Transcript at Lily's iPhone Component Shop Link

Interview Transcript at Lisa's Component Shop Link

Interview Transcript at Mr. Liang's Repair Shop Link

Bio

Kiki Mager is a designer and researcher currently at the Centre for Research Architecture in London for their postgraduate degree. Kiki continues their independent and freelance work which evolves around politics of mass-material culture in a critical analysis of their specific roles in shaping social, economic, political and environmental asymmetries.

Contacts

kikimager.com Link

@kikmgr Link