Cao Fei, based in Beijing and recognized for her groundbreaking work since the early 2000s, is one of today’s foremost contemporary artists and filmmakers.

 

Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

 

 

Across her multimedia projects we witness individuals coming to terms with both the beauty and the perils of a global, industrialized and hyperconnected world. Though raised in Guangzhou by two academically trained artists, Cao Fei came of age in the wake of the student-led revolution and rapid urbanization of China. She absorbed a vast range of sources, including avant-garde and French New Wave cinema, and developed an approach that centers everyday characters, usually from China’s working class, living between fantasy and reality amid the backdrop of the country’s expanding and changing megalopolises.

 

Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
Nova, 2019
HD Video, color, with sound
97:34 min

Details
Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
Nova, 2019
HD Video, color, with sound
97:34 min

Cao Fei
Nova, 2019
HD Video, color, with sound
97:34 min

Details
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How humans adapt to this change is the recurring theme of her wide-ranging work. Cao Fei’s two most recent feature-length films, Nova (2019) and Asia One (2018), are represented both on screen and through suites of photographs, and each explores this shifting era in different ways.

 

Nova follows the story of a computer scientist engaged in a secretive international project; as part of his experiments he uses his son, who is accidentally turned into a digital version of himself and trapped in an eternal cyberspace. At once a period piece and a sci-fi film, Nova’s narrative slowly devolves, and in the words of the artist, “The film has no sense of time, because the actors are always traveling between the past, present and future.”

Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
Nova 17, 2019
Inkjet print on paper
110 × 150 cm
43 1/4 × 59 inches

More Views
Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
Nova 24, 2019
inkjet print on paper
110 × 150 cm
43 1/4 × 59 inches

More Views
Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
Nova 01, 2019
inkjet print on paper
105 × 150 cm
41 3/8 × 59 inches

More Views
Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
Nova 16, 2019
inkjet print on paper
110 × 150 cm
43 1/4 × 59 inches

More Views
Details
Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
Nova 17, 2019
Inkjet print on paper
110 × 150 cm
43 1/4 × 59 inches

Cao Fei
Nova 17, 2019
Inkjet print on paper
110 × 150 cm
43 1/4 × 59 inches

Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles
Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
Nova 17, 2019

Cao Fei
Nova 17, 2019

Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
Nova 24, 2019
inkjet print on paper
110 × 150 cm
43 1/4 × 59 inches

Cao Fei
Nova 24, 2019
inkjet print on paper
110 × 150 cm
43 1/4 × 59 inches

Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles
Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
Nova 24, 2019

Cao Fei
Nova 24, 2019

Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
Nova 01, 2019
inkjet print on paper
105 × 150 cm
41 3/8 × 59 inches

Cao Fei
Nova 01, 2019
inkjet print on paper
105 × 150 cm
41 3/8 × 59 inches

Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles
Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
Nova 01, 2019 (mock up)

Cao Fei
Nova 01, 2019 (mock up)

Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
Nova 16, 2019
inkjet print on paper
110 × 150 cm
43 1/4 × 59 inches

Cao Fei
Nova 16, 2019
inkjet print on paper
110 × 150 cm
43 1/4 × 59 inches

Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles
Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
Nova 16, 2019

Cao Fei
Nova 16, 2019

Details
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1 of 4

Nova follows the story of a computer scientist engaged in a secretive international project; as part of his experiments he uses his son, who is accidentally turned into a digital version of himself and trapped in an eternal cyberspace. At once a period piece and a sci-fi film, Nova’s narrative slowly devolves, and in the words of the artist, “The film has no sense of time, because the actors are always traveling between the past, present and future.”

Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
Asia One 02, 2018
Inkjet print on paper
90 × 135 cm
35 3/8 × 53 1/8 inches

More Views
Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
Asia One 04, 2018
Inkjet print on paper
100 × 140 cm
39 3/8 × 55 1/8 inches

More Views
Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
Asia One 07, 2018
Inkjet print on paper
100 × 140 cm
39 3/8 × 55 1/8 inches

More Views
Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
Asia One 06, 2018
Inkjet print on paper
100 × 140 cm
39 3/8 × 55 1/8 inches

More Views

In Asia One, however, we are rooted in a near-future (incidentally this very year, 2021) in which two workers and a robot are left alone in an enormous automated logistics center. Their labor is repetitive and lonely, but through playful fantasies and emotional connection, human and AI consciousness begin to merge.

Details
Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
Asia One 02, 2018
Inkjet print on paper
90 × 135 cm
35 3/8 × 53 1/8 inches

Cao Fei
Asia One 02, 2018
Inkjet print on paper
90 × 135 cm
35 3/8 × 53 1/8 inches

Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles
Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
Asia One 02, 2018 (mock up)

Cao Fei
Asia One 02, 2018 (mock up)

Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
Asia One 04, 2018
Inkjet print on paper
100 × 140 cm
39 3/8 × 55 1/8 inches

Cao Fei
Asia One 04, 2018
Inkjet print on paper
100 × 140 cm
39 3/8 × 55 1/8 inches

Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles
Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
Asia One 04, 2018 (mock up)

Cao Fei
Asia One 04, 2018 (mock up)

Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
Asia One 07, 2018
Inkjet print on paper
100 × 140 cm
39 3/8 × 55 1/8 inches

Cao Fei
Asia One 07, 2018
Inkjet print on paper
100 × 140 cm
39 3/8 × 55 1/8 inches

Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles
Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
Asia One 07, 2018 (mock up)

Cao Fei
Asia One 07, 2018 (mock up)

Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
Asia One 06, 2018
Inkjet print on paper
100 × 140 cm
39 3/8 × 55 1/8 inches

Cao Fei
Asia One 06, 2018
Inkjet print on paper
100 × 140 cm
39 3/8 × 55 1/8 inches

Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles
Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
Asia One 06, 2018 (mock up)

Cao Fei
Asia One 06, 2018 (mock up)

Details
icon_fullscreen
1 of 4

In Asia One, however, we are rooted in a near-future (incidentally this very year, 2021) in which two workers and a robot are left alone in an enormous automated logistics center. Their labor is repetitive and lonely, but through playful fantasies and emotional connection, human and AI consciousness begin to merge.

Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
Asia One, 2018
HD Video, color, with sound
63:20 min

Details
Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
Asia One, 2018
HD Video, color, with sound
63:20 min

Cao Fei
Asia One, 2018
HD Video, color, with sound
63:20 min

Details
icon_fullscreen
1 of 1
Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

 

 

Also on view are two earlier projects that exhibit this same sense of beauty and melancholy, always punctuated by moments of humor, which have come to characterize Cao Fei’s luminous films.

 

 

Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
La Town: White Street, 2014
Inkjet print on paper
120 × 80 cm
47 1/4 × 31 1/2 inches

More Views
Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
La Town: Center Plaza, 2014
Inkjet print on paper
80 × 120 cm
31 1/2 × 47 1/4 inches

More Views
Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
La Town: Train Station, 2014
Inkjet print on paper
70 × 130 cm
27 5/8 × 51 1/8 inches

More Views
Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
La Town: Night Museum, 2014
Inkjet print on paper
80 × 120 cm
31 1/2 × 47 1/4 inches

More Views

La Town (2014), with its French-language voiceover and intensive pacing, recalls Alain Resnais’ filmic masterpiece Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959), albeit rendered through scene after scene of miniatures reeling after a massive, mysterious catastrophe—though many simply carry on with their daily lives. A sense of existential dread pervades the film, and one that could be found in any twenty-first century locale.

Details
Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
La Town: White Street, 2014
Inkjet print on paper
120 × 80 cm
47 1/4 × 31 1/2 inches

Cao Fei
La Town: White Street, 2014
Inkjet print on paper
120 × 80 cm
47 1/4 × 31 1/2 inches

Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles
Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
La Town: White Street, 2014

Cao Fei
La Town: White Street, 2014

Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
La Town: Center Plaza, 2014
Inkjet print on paper
80 × 120 cm
31 1/2 × 47 1/4 inches

Cao Fei
La Town: Center Plaza, 2014
Inkjet print on paper
80 × 120 cm
31 1/2 × 47 1/4 inches

Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles
Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
La Town: Center Plaza, 2014

Cao Fei
La Town: Center Plaza, 2014

Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
La Town: Train Station, 2014
Inkjet print on paper
70 × 130 cm
27 5/8 × 51 1/8 inches

Cao Fei
La Town: Train Station, 2014
Inkjet print on paper
70 × 130 cm
27 5/8 × 51 1/8 inches

Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles
Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
La Town: Train Station, 2014

Cao Fei
La Town: Train Station, 2014

Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
La Town: Night Museum, 2014
Inkjet print on paper
80 × 120 cm
31 1/2 × 47 1/4 inches

Cao Fei
La Town: Night Museum, 2014
Inkjet print on paper
80 × 120 cm
31 1/2 × 47 1/4 inches

Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles
Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
La Town: Night Museum, 2014

Cao Fei
La Town: Night Museum, 2014

Details
icon_fullscreen
1 of 4

La Town (2014), with its French-language voiceover and intensive pacing, recalls Alain Resnais’ filmic masterpiece Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959), albeit rendered through scene after scene of miniatures reeling after a massive, mysterious catastrophe—though many simply carry on with their daily lives. A sense of existential dread pervades the film, and one that could be found in any twenty-first century locale.

Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
Haze and Fog 01, 2013
Inkjet print on paper
70 × 105 cm
27 5/8 × 41 3/8 inches

More Views
Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
Haze and Fog 09, 2013
Inkjet print on paper
70 × 105 cm
27 5/8 × 41 3/8 inches

More Views
Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
Haze and Fog 11, 2013
Inkjet print on paper
70 × 105 cm
27 5/8 × 41 3/8 inches

More Views
Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
Haze and Fog 13, 2013
Inkjet print on paper
70 × 105 cm
27 5/8 × 41 3/8 inches

More Views
Details
Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
Haze and Fog 01, 2013
Inkjet print on paper
70 × 105 cm
27 5/8 × 41 3/8 inches

Cao Fei
Haze and Fog 01, 2013
Inkjet print on paper
70 × 105 cm
27 5/8 × 41 3/8 inches

Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles
Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
Haze and Fog 01, 2013

Cao Fei
Haze and Fog 01, 2013

Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
Haze and Fog 09, 2013
Inkjet print on paper
70 × 105 cm
27 5/8 × 41 3/8 inches

Cao Fei
Haze and Fog 09, 2013
Inkjet print on paper
70 × 105 cm
27 5/8 × 41 3/8 inches

Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles
Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
Haze and Fog 09, 2013

Cao Fei
Haze and Fog 09, 2013

Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
Haze and Fog 11, 2013
Inkjet print on paper
70 × 105 cm
27 5/8 × 41 3/8 inches

Cao Fei
Haze and Fog 11, 2013
Inkjet print on paper
70 × 105 cm
27 5/8 × 41 3/8 inches

Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles
Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
Haze and Fog 11, 2013

Cao Fei
Haze and Fog 11, 2013

Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
Haze and Fog 13, 2013
Inkjet print on paper
70 × 105 cm
27 5/8 × 41 3/8 inches

Cao Fei
Haze and Fog 13, 2013
Inkjet print on paper
70 × 105 cm
27 5/8 × 41 3/8 inches

Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles
Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
Haze and Fog 13, 2013

Cao Fei
Haze and Fog 13, 2013

Details
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1 of 4

Haze and Fog (2013) also plays with cinematic genres, this time the western zombie film with hints of Jean-Luc Godard’s camerawork and vignettes depicting different scenes of work and family life in China. Cao Fei created this work in response to the economic crisis of 2008 in an effort to describe the feeling of entrapment, both internal and external, within a perpetual socioeconomic fog.

 

Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
Rumba 01, 2015
Robot vacuum cleaner, pedestal
110 × 60 × 60 cm
43 1/4 × 23 5/8 × 23 5/8 inches

Finally, the exhibition includes sculptures from Cao Fei’s Rumba series, which recast the popular Roomba robotic vacuum cleaners as actors moving across pedestals. Because of the machines’ internal mechanisms, they stop short of the pedestal edges and continue their electronic dance as if performing on a stage.

Details
Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
Rumba 01, 2015
Robot vacuum cleaner, pedestal
110 × 60 × 60 cm
43 1/4 × 23 5/8 × 23 5/8 inches

Cao Fei
Rumba 01, 2015
Robot vacuum cleaner, pedestal
110 × 60 × 60 cm
43 1/4 × 23 5/8 × 23 5/8 inches

Details
icon_fullscreen
1 of 1

Finally, the exhibition includes sculptures from Cao Fei’s Rumba series, which recast the popular Roomba robotic vacuum cleaners as actors moving across pedestals. Because of the machines’ internal mechanisms, they stop short of the pedestal edges and continue their electronic dance as if performing on a stage.

These works also relate to a film by Cao Fei in which the vacuums move absurdly through urban spaces. This element of repetitive performance, of choreographed movements, and of attempting to break the bounds of one’s current reality, pervades all of Cao Fei’s projects to form a body of work that mines the depths of twenty-first century global life.

Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
Rumba II: Nomad, 2015
HD Video, color, with sound
14:16 min

More views
Details
Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
Rumba II: Nomad, 2015
HD Video, color, with sound
14:16 min

Cao Fei
Rumba II: Nomad, 2015
HD Video, color, with sound
14:16 min

Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles
Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

Cao Fei
Rumba II: Nomad, 2015 (detail)

Cao Fei
Rumba II: Nomad, 2015 (detail)

Details
icon_fullscreen
1 of 1

These works also relate to a film by Cao Fei in which the vacuums move absurdly through urban spaces. This element of repetitive performance, of choreographed movements, and of attempting to break the bounds of one’s current reality, pervades all of Cao Fei’s projects to form a body of work that mines the depths of twenty-first century global life.

The exhibition is presented as an immersive installation, with the visual vocabulary and setting of Cao Fei’s films extending into the exhibition space. On the ground floor, elements featured in Asia One create the backdrop for the screening, such as green plastic flooring, red beam chairs, a yellow grid fence and wallpaper from a film sequence. On the second floor, the viewer is transported into the scenery of Nova set in the disused Hongxia Theatre in Beijing—a mid-twentieth-century film theater decorated in the style of the Sino-Soviet alliance, as well as the artist’s former studio space.

 

Cao Fei – Cao Fei – Los Angeles

All installation views by Robert Wedermeyer