Cao Fei – Who’s Utopia and Shadow Life

Cao Fei (1978) is a Chinese artist based in Beijing. She is known for her multimedia installations and videos, and is acknowledged as one of the key artists of a new generation emerging from Mainland China. She mixes social commentary, popular aesthetics, references to Surrealism, and documentary conventions in her films and installations. Her works reflect on the rapid and chaotic changes that are occurring in Chinese society today.

Whose Utopia is a 20 minute video piece produced in collaboration with workers at the Oshram light factory in the Pearl River Delta Region during Cao Fei’s residency there. Funded by the Siemens arts program, this video was a component of a broader project — which included a newspaper produced by Cao and the employees in the factory — addressing global capitalism.

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Shadow Life, evokes folklore and communist festivals. The vignettes are performed by shadow puppets; the form of the hand is a synecdoche for the manual labor of workers and peasants, while the silhouette medium allows quick metamorphoses of a grandstanding dictator to a barking dog, a swaying tree to a crane transforming the landscape. A remake of a 2000 Russian pop hit serves as the sound track to the third part, Transmigration—a farcical rejoinder to Mao’s cover of Marxism-Leninism.
—— ARTFORUM – New York Reviews: Cao Fei by Brian Droitcour, June 2011.

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