China Underground > Contemporary art in China: Exploring China's Flourishing Art Scene > Cao Fei’s Duotopia: Exploring the Porous Limits Between Physical and Virtual Worlds

Cao Fei’s Duotopia: Exploring the Porous Limits Between Physical and Virtual Worlds

Sprüth Magers Presents Duotopia: Cao Fei’s Exploration of the Metaverse and Beyond.

Cao Fei is a Chinese artist whose work has been at the forefront of art, media, technology, and futurity for over two decades. Her upcoming exhibition, Duotopia, will be held at Sprüth Magers in Berlin and will feature several new works outside of China that explore the metaverse, virtual reality, and the interactions between human and machine consciousness.

Cao Fei, Duotopia
April 28–August 19, 2023
April 27, 6–8pm Sprüth Magers, Berlin

The exhibition will be anchored in the downstairs galleries with a group of new videos that explore the connective and creative possibilities of the metaverse. Meta-mentary (2022) is the first video viewers will encounter, where everyday people are interviewed about their thoughts on the metaverse and the distant future. The adjacent vitrines and screens showcase the artist’s first virtual-reality construction, RMB City (2007–11), which housed her first avatar, China Tracy. Together, these projects illustrate Cao Fei’s exploration into the increasingly porous limits between the physical and virtual worlds.

CFE_Press_Duotopia_2022
Cao Fei DUOTOPIA – 1st Edition, 2022 3D rendering video, 9:16, color with sound, 2min 40sec © Cao Fei, 2023 Courtesy the artist, Vitamin Creative Space and Sprüth Magers

Duotopia (2022) will be displayed amid large hanging banners that advertise the exhibition’s namesake. It presents Cao Fei’s first architectural creation in the metaverse. The video is experienced immersively by lying on the floor and looking upward, watching from below as Duotopia’s ring-like construction floats and spins amid a blushing sky. Its substructures are shaped like massive aquatic figures that seem to bridge ocean and air. The ‘duo’ in Duotopia refers to the mandarin word duō 多, meaning many—thus a layering of many possible futures, environments, and aesthetics. In Oz (2022), Cao Fei has imagined a powerful new avatar for Duotopia, fifteen years after the birth of China Tracy and RMB City. Poised, androgynous and likewise water-related with her bionic tentacles, Oz emits a serene aura that suggests a hopeful eternity.

Cao Fei, Still Alive, 2023
Cao Fei Still Alive, 2023 HD video, 16:9, color with sound © Cao Fei, 2023 Courtesy the artist, Vitamin Creative Space and Sprüth Magers

As a counterpoint to the metaverse, three recent projects by Cao Fei relating to the experience of her family and friends during the COVID-19 pandemic will be separated spatially by an elaborate staging of false walls, props, photographs, and memorabilia. Isle of Instability (2020) documents a period of quarantine in Singapore during the pandemic’s early months. A video depicts an “island” the artist erected in her living room for her daughter’s distraction and amusement, paired with scenes of deserted highways and city streets. A Holiday (2023) refers to the desperate need for nature that many people craved in reaction to the confines and stresses of long-term remote living. Still Alive (2023), Cao Fei’s newest video, presents a poignant tribute to her mother amid the grief and loss of her husband, the artist’s stepfather, to COVID-19 complications.

Cao Fei, A Holiday, 2023
Cao Fei A Holiday, 2023 Single-channel HD video, 16:9, color with sound © Cao Fei, 2023 Courtesy the artist, Vitamin Creative Space and Sprüth Magers

In the upstairs gallery, Cao Fei presents two videos that explore the concepts of time, space, and the fictions of history and geopolitics. In the nonlinear narrative of Nova (2019), a Chinese scientist and his fellow researchers attempt to solve the problem of time travel, assisted by a Soviet scientist with whom he falls in love. In a desperate move, he accidentally traps his son in an alternate space-time continuum. Dressed in a space suit and attempting to find his way home, the son wanders amid a series of retro-futuristic locales that are echoed in the nostalgic details of Cao Fei’s lush installation.

Duotopia is a poignant reflection on the rapid changes brought about by global developments, both in China and throughout the world, as well as the points that connect us across these divides. The exhibition showcases Cao Fei’s long exploration into the increasingly porous limits between the physical and virtual worlds, offering a glimpse into the future of art, media, technology, and futurity.

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