Cao Fei at MOMA PS1: Life, parallel

It’s not breaking news that the bond between Eastern and Western culture is growing tighter, especially when it comes to contemporary art. Recently, a Japanese collector was the undisputed protagonist of New York’s Spring auctions, where he acquired record-breaking pieces by Basquiat, Richard Prince, Jeff Koons, and Bruce Nauman. At the same time, Western art fairs, auction houses and galleries keep opening new headquarters in the Land of the Rising Sun.

And speaking of rising, Cao Fei (b. 1978, Guangzhou), a rising star in the sky of contemporary art, recently inaugurated her first museum solo-show in the United States at Moma PS1. Beginning with her early performances and culminating in her last project, the surreal movie LA Town, the exhibition deeply investigates the evolution of the Beijing-based artist’s practice.

 

Cao Fei, Moma PS1

Cao Fei: Cosplayers (video)

Cao Fei, Moma PS1

Cao Fei: Cosplayers (video)

 

Cao Fei’s videos focus on the construction of a parallel world based on contemporary mythology – from manga cartoons to walking deaths – breaking the boundary between ordinary life and imaginary reality. Her work explores various dimensions of human alienation, and in particular how this condition is affected by living in urban and industrial environments.

Starting from one of her first videos, Cosplayers, in which she follows and portrays the life of a group of teenagers who dress as their favorite manga personas, Fei explores how these characters relate to their everyday life by living in a sort of “parallel world.” Particularly emphatic are the last scenes of the video, where the protagonists are filmed in their domestic environment, dining with their parents, taking naps, or cleaning their sword.

This relation between real and fantasy world is a recurring theme in Cao Fei’s work. Her focus moves from teenage life to analyzing social interactions on the Internet in RMB City, a video inspired by Second Life – one of the first video games where players were able to engage with each other. In the poetic video My Future is Not a Dream, the artist interviews OSRAM factory workers in Guangzhou about their dream job. In this project, images of industrial workers as parts of a production line are counterposed by the artist with others exploring their uniqueness as human beings.

 

Cao Fei, Moma PS1

Cao Fei: My Future is Not a Dream (video)

Cao Fei, Moma PS1

Cao Fei: My Future is Not a Dream (video)

 

A deeper focus on each character’s features takes Fei’s last works from a documentary perspective to a narrative closer to that of short movies. In the last two videos, Haze and Fog and LA Town, she tells the story of an imaginary post-apocalyptic world. In Haze and Fog, a series of short stories that seem inspired by Almodovar and Ozpetek movies end in a zombie Apocalypse. While in her last video, LA Town, Fei shifts the narration from an external point of view to a dialogue between the two main characters. Using an aesthetic that resembles that of the Chapman Brothers, the video is a series of shots of a post-apocalyptic town created with small toys and figurines.

There’s no condemnation in Fei’s work, but rather a detached and melancholic analysis of the condition of the individual in contemporary society, condition that each character tries to overcome in their private world.

Cao Fei, MOMA PS1, New York, through August 31st, 2016

 

Cao Fei, Moma PS1, New York

Cao Fei: Rabid Dogs (video)

Cao Fei, Moma PS1

Cao Fei: Haze and Fog (video)

Leave a Reply

by Ludovica Capobianco
in Focus on the East Coast

Wed Development by THX88.net Digital Art Factory