“When I was little, I used mud, old bricks and tiles to build a pigeon house. … Now when I make artworks, I still have the feeling of making a pigeon house, haha.”

Born 1976, Xintai, Henan. Lives and works in Hangzhou.

Jin Shi is driven by compassion for the “little people”—those who scrounge a living at the bottom of the social heap, making their homes in cracks unnoticed by the upwardly mobile, confining their hopes to a miniature version of the new Chinese dream. His installations, accurate down to the battered cooking implements, faded posters and layers of dust, could be mistaken for the real thing in every respect but their scale: his Mini Home (2005) and Small Business—Karaoke (2009) are about two-thirds full size, made to match the “half lives” of the urban poor. These folk are so ground down by lack of jobs, money, choices and space, that “it is as if even their heights are shrinking”, Jin Shi says. He has also made a mini pool hall, hotel lobby, and market stall, focusing on objects rather than people because “objects can be far more persuasive than people. People can pretend, but objects can’t.” In each work, the artistry lies in the scrupulous replication of things cheap and shoddy, fake, recycled and old. For Jin Shi, the life of the desperately poor is “more artistic than art”—so moving that “any further [artistic] processing will only pale beside it”.

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