Cao Fei

Installations + Performance Videos, studios Guangzhou + Beijing
*1978, Guangzhou, Guangdong

Cao Fei, 2007

Cao Fei was born in Guangzhou, China, in 1978. She earned a BFA from Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts in Guangzhou, China (2001). Cao Fei’s work reflects the fluidity of a world in which cultures have mixed and diverged in rapid evolution. Her video installations and new media works explore perception and reality in places as diverse as a Chinese factory and the virtual world of "Second Life."

Applying strategies of sampling, role play, and documentary filmmaking to capture individuals’ longings and the ways in which they imagine themselves—as hip-hop musicians, costumed characters, or digitized alter egos—Cao Fei reveals the discrepancy between reality and dream, and the discontent and disillusionment of China’s younger generation.
Depictions of hyper-capitalistic Pearl River Delta development abound in images that echo traditional Chinese landscape painting and in the design of her own virtual utopia, RMB City ('Ren-Min-Bi', Chinese money). Fascinated by the world of "Second Life," Cao Fei has created several works in which she is both participant and observer through her "Second Life" avatar, China Tracy, who acts as a guide, philosopher, and tourist.

Cao Fei’s work has appeared in solo exhibitions at the Serpentine Gallery, London (2008); Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, California (2007); Museum Het Domein, Sittard, Netherlands (2006); and Para Site Art Space, Hong Kong (2006). She has participated in the New Museum Triennial (2009); Carnegie International, Pittsburgh (2008); Prospect.1 New Orleans (2008); Yokohama Triennial (2008); and the Biennials of Istanbul, Lyon, and Venice (2007). Her work has appeared at New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York (2008); Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2007); P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, Long Island City (2006); and Asia Society, New York (2006). Cao Fei lives and works in Beijing.

'I.Mirror', 2007

'I.Mirror', Second Life video, 2007

Cao Fei first gained notoriety for a series of photos and video depicting Guangzhou teens dressed as Japanese manga characters. Her recent work involves videos made using the game Second Life. The process known as 'machinima' is the practice of creating videos using the video game as the medium. The series 'I.Mirror' was first shown at the 52nd Venice Bienniae. Her work is currently on show at numerous galleries around the world including New York's new Museum of Contemporary Art.

I.Mirror YouTube part1

I.Mirror YouTube part2

I.Mirror YouTube part3

I.Mirror, YouTube videos, 10 min each

'RMB City', 2007

Still from 'RMB City'

'RMB City', YouTube, 2007

RMB City will be the condensed incarnation of contemporary Chinese cities with most of their characteristics; a series of new Chinese fantasy realms that are highly self-contradictory, inter-permeative, laden with irony and suspicion, and extremely entertaining and pan-political.

'Life in RMB City', 2009

Cao Fei takes her real life baby Sun to RMB City. An exciting and unpredictable fantasy, the video 'Live in RMB City' follows the first breaths, fears and curiosities of newly born China Sun, the baby of China Tracy.
The camera follows baby China Sun's wanderings and explorations in a revived RMB City, inspired by brand new

additions created by a team of artist, writer, architect, and philosopher collaborators, and infused with a fresh stream of life.

'Life in RMB City' YouTube, 2009

'Building RMB City', an interview with Cao Fei, 2011

'Building RMB City', YouTube, 2011

In her Beijing studio, Cao Fei discusses the inspirations, process, and challenges behind developing and building a virtual urban environment within the digital realm of Second Life for her project, "RMB City" (2007). Comparing the virtual landscape of "RMB City" to the styles of traditional Chinese brush paintings, Cao draws connections between the past and the present, Eastern and Western cultures, and aesthetic sensibilities developed from her upbringing.