CURA.

CAO FEI
Blueprints

Serpentine Galleries, London 

March 4 – May 17, 2020

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Press Release

Cao Fei's work is underpinned by an ongoing exploration of virtuality, how it has radically altered our perception of self and changed the way we understand reality. This slippage between the physical and the virtual is always present in her work; from the utopic and dystopic potentials of our modern-day cities, the escapism of users via the virtual platform, Second Life, to the alienating effects of mechanised labour in China, Cao Fei often addresses these far-reaching topics through deadpan humour and the creation of surreal encounters. Although each of Cao Fei's worlds appear to teeter on the edge of apocalyptic uncertainty, her characters navigate these complex and chaotic realities with vigour and agency, harnessing the unique possibilities of technology in order to shape a collective future.

 

This slippage between the physical and the virtual is always present in her work; from the utopic and dystopic potentials of our modern-day cities, the escapism of users via the virtual platform, Second Life, to the alienating effects of mechanised labour in China, Cao Fei often addresses these topics through the creation of surreal encounters and with a subtle sense of play. Although each of Cao Fei’s worlds appear to teeter on the edge of apocalyptic uncertainty, her characters navigate these complex and chaotic realities with vigour and agency, harnessing the unique possibilities of technology in order to shape a collective future. The Serpentine Galleries exhibition brings together new and existing works by Cao Fei in an immersive, site-specific installation, expanding the themes of automation, virtuality and technology that she continuously draws upon.

At the centre of this exhibition will be a new Virtual Reality artwork The Eternal Wave, produced in collaboration with Acute Art and premiered as part of Blueprints; a site-specific installation bringing together collected archival material and furniture that is based on elements of Cao Fei’s Beijing studio; and her latest film, Nova. These three interconnected works mark the culmination of Cao Fei’s extensive research in Beijing over the last five years, examining the social history and urban transformation of the city’s Jiuxianqiao (‘Hong Xia’) district where she lives and works. This new body of work will be presented within an installation that brings together a selection of the artist’s previous film works to expand the themes of automation, virtuality and technology, giving visitors an introduction to her wider practice.

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The earliest work in the exhibition, Whose Utopia? (2006), is paired with her recent film, Asia One (2018) in an installation that considers the significance of automation on the human body and its labouring self, whilst the 2014 work, La Town, presents a post-apocalyptic cityscape pictured through a cinematic stop-motion animation. Connecting back to the Serpentine’s 2008 project with Cao Fei, her work RMB City: A Second Life City Planning will be re-presented in the Serpentine Gallery lobby. Together, these works further the layering of virtual, physical and cinematic spaces that are encountered in the first part of the exhibition, leading visitors through alternative realities and multiple frames of experience.

CREDITS
Courtesy of the artist Vitamin Creative Space, Sprüth Magers and Acute Art
Installation views by Gautier Deblonde

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