Pollen Mining is a collaborative arts project, working with Grindcore Heavy Metal musicians to subvert and bring attention to the stringent and pervasive surveillance strategies Chinese authorities are using to persecute and detain the country’s minority Muslim Uigher population in Xinjiang.
Last year it was reported that an app entitled 蜂采 (which roughly translates to bees mining pollen) was loaded onto the phones of those crossing the border into Xinjiang. This application gathers texts, call records, contacts and calendar entries as well as checking the files stored on the phone against a list of more than 73,000 prohibited items. Whilst some of these items relate to extremist content, the list also contains perfectly reasonable material to have stored on one’s phone such as excerpts from the Quran, a book about the history of Syria, a self help book, or the writings of the Dalai Lama. Another more bizarre item on the list is a song by the Japanese heavy metal Grindcore band Unholy Grave called ‘Cause and Effect’.
Pollen Mining will work collaboratively with Grindcore musicians to produce, record and perform a collection of songs that lyrically embed the other restricted, but harmless or seemingly arbitrary, content of the app. By converging the app’s prohibited items with the also targeted Grindcore genre, these songs will candidly but covertly seek to subvert the censorship strategy of the app, maintaining the content of both. These audio files will act as a loud and affective form of contemporary protest; harnessing the medium of music to disseminate content, in turn increasing awareness of China’s human rights abuses against the Uigher population in Xinjiang.