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Argentum

HD Video / PAL / Color / Sound / 13 min 15 sec /
in Chinese with English and Chinese subtitles / 2016

“Jindu” Gold City, “Yindu” Silver City, “Tongdu” Copper City, and “Niedu” Nickel City—these are just some of the many cities in China named after the minerals and metals that are mined and produced there. I am not exactly sure when my hometown of Yongxing County in Hunan gained the moniker Silver City. But I heard that in order to celebrate the naming of Yindu, the county built a silver building, (I suspect it was actually only a layer of silver on the facade of the building but nevertheless). However new environmental regulations, meant that silver smelting operations had to be closed and now lots of people are searching around the country for somewhere suitable to open silver refining operations. Some of them went to Dongchuan in Yunnan.
Economically backward, the city of Dongchuan is 180km from Kunming. Ten years ago, in order to attract foreign investment, Dongchuan officially became a district of Kunming, (thus giving it access to preferential policies). Regular people enjoyed some tangible benefits. The government leveled off the tops of several mountains in order to build smelting operations, to grow the economy. Following this, a kind of natural phenomena appeared where smoke would mix with aerosols in a billowing spectacle.
One boss earned himself a mad fortune . . . in order to “provide the workers with a livelihood”. The local officials who want to speak sit trapped in an awkward silence. They all have no choice but to struggle through this strange phenomenon—this vicious cycle.