Cao Fei

(b. 1978)

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(1978– )

Chinese video artist. She was born in Guandong Province, China's economic powerhouse. According to Karen Smith, she is ‘an appealing representative of China's new hybrid society, defined by the twin poles of an ever expanding industrialization and a rapacious consumerist culture’. Rabid Dogs (2000) featured office workers acting like dogs. The artist commented that ‘We are surely a miserable pack of dogs and we are willing to act as beasts that are locked in the trap of modernization.’ Whereas an older generation of Chinese artists had scores to settle with Mao Zedong and his personality cult, Cao Fei draws on the impact of mass consumer culture on society. COSPlayers (2004) reflects the lives of those young Chinese who dress up as characters from Japanese manga cartoons, living out fantasies of unreal magical powers within a drab environment.

In 2006 she received a commission from Siemens, the German electronic company, which has manufacturing plants across China. The result was Whose Utopia? What are you doing here? Set in an electric light bulb factory, it contrasts the day-to-day repetitive lives of the workers with their fantasies.

Further Reading

H. Orbist, ‘Cao Fei’, Artforum (January 2006)

Subjects: Art.

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