As I became involved in this work, I decided to also use my artistic skills to express my experience of being an ethnographer. I embarked on a series of paintings in which the calligraphy commonly included in the classical tradition is used to write the ethnographic fieldnotes that reflect the scene or portrait that I am painting. At the core of my work 'visual ethnography' is a traditional unfolding 'book’ that displays twenty such paintings, but in addition there are many single paintings and some modern art installments.

 

The result shows how a new form of 'fusion’ painting that combines classical and contemporary art traditions is able to express not only the fusion that corresponds to the changed lives of my informants, but also my personal experience as an ethnographer documenting these radical transformations in people’s lives. 

 

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I was originally trained in classical Chinese painting and calligraphy and now I am a researcher and part of the Global social media impact study at University College London. My research is an ethnography of the world’s largest ever migration: more than 250 million rural Chinese who have moved into the new factory towns and cities. I have spent 15 months doing anthropological fieldwork in one such factory town in southeast China exploring the use of social media by these workers.