Cao Fei, still from 'Haze and Fog', 2013.
The Chinese artist Cao Fei (*1978) is regarded as a pioneer of a generation of artists, for whose members digital media and network technology are simply aspects of everyday life. This Beijing-based artist elaborates her multifaceted artistic oeuvre through an imperative confrontation with the latest medial innovations. Soon, the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen will be presenting the first major solo exhibition in Germany of Cao Fei's works. This survey, which will be on view at the K21, will encompass her artistic production between 1995 and 2017, and will include videos, photographs, and multimedia installations, as well as drawings which have not been shown publicly previously.
Cao Fei's works reflect extensively upon the societal and urban situation of contemporary China, characterized by processes of massive transformation. Working along the boundary between fiction and reality, she draws inspiration also from her immediate milieu. Her projects – which exploit a film and television aesthetic that has been disseminated globally – are readily and widely accessible. The local phenomena observed by Cao Fei generate an awareness of the kind of situations that are occurring in our urbanized global environment. Many of her works pose questions such as: How do we experience our own lives? What are our expectations of the future? In which direction is society – and with it our megacities – developing today?
The major film "Haze and Fog" (2013) will be screened in the exhibition. Shot in the artist's block of flats, the film uses artificial lighting to convey the inner emptiness of the people who live here and their alienation from the city. In the documentary installation "Nation.Father" (2005-2008), Cao Fei offers insights that are both personal as well as political.
For each project, Cao Fei invents a new and compelling visual idiom. The media deployed by this artist consistently belong to the technological avant-garde. With works like "RMB City" (2007-2011), created using the virtual-reality platform Second Life, she functions as a chronicler of the evolving influence of digital resources.
(Photo courtesy of Cao Fei and Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen K21.)