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An architecture of density | Michael Wolf

wolf began his career as a photojournalist, spending over a decade working in asia for the german magazine stern. while shooting his final story for the magazine, “china: factory of the world,” he discovered the seeds of his first major art project. wolf developed the idea around plastic toys, a fascination of his since they were off limits to him as a child. over a period of one month, he collected over twenty thousand toys “made in china,” scavenging through second-hand stores and flea markets up and down the california coast. he transformed this vast collection into an installation, the real toy story, which integrates portraits of workers in china’s toy factories into a series of walls covered entirely in plastic toys of all kinds. the result is an overwhelming, immersive experience; a graphic representation of the gargantuan scale of china’s mass production and the west’s hunger for a never-ending supply of disposable products. the gazes of the factory workers humanize this anonymous ocean of toys and invite us to reflect on the reality of trade in a world of consumer-driven globalization. many of the characteristics of wolf’s work were already present in this first project: obsessive collecting, a recognition of the symbolic power of the vernacular, the combination of both macro and micro perspectives, and the ability to use a specific subject or focus to document the broader transformations of urban life.

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