Trafficked Identities Exhibition


The Winning Entry: Out


Xuan Chen (China/USA)


The animated film Out is inspired by the phenomena of migrant workers who have constituted a large portion of China’s workforce since the early 1990s.

The income disparity between rich and poor, the lack of resources in the countryside, and the rapid modernization of Chinese cities made it desirable for country folks to leave their hometowns and find work in the big cities to improve the lot of their families. 

Living at the bottom rung of society, these migrant workers are China’s most valuable economic assets. They populate the manufacturing industries, and form the majority of the country’s coal miners and construction workers. 

While their efforts gave Chinese cities their skyscrapers and presented the world with ‘Made in China’ as a global phenomenon, the lives of migrant workers have generally not improved with time. They continue to live precariously in the cities while their hometowns remain undeveloped. Such stories about Chinese migrant workers find parallels in the trajectories of, for instance, Mexican and Central American workers in the United States.


Born in mainland China in 1979, Xuan Chen moved to Berkeley, California in 2001 to research renewable energies at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory for six years. She is currently pursuing an M.F.A. degree in the Art and Art History Department at the University of New Mexico. Chen’s films have been included in juried exhibitions and film festivals at various locations in the United Sates, such as Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Minneapolis, New York City, Pittsburgh, Missouri and Texas. Out has received a New Vision’s Award from the state of New Mexico, U.S.A. Her film Gray won the Friends of Arts Prize from the University of New Mexico Art Museum in 2009.