After launching a show on Japanese architecture at their main location, MoMA brings multimedia artist Cao Fei to MoMA PS1 for her first museum solo show in the U.S (through Aug. 31, 2017). It’s a bit surprising it’s taken so long—Fei has been an art world fixture for some time now, garnering recognition as a finalist for the Hugo Boss Prize in 2010 and winning Best Young Artist from the Chinese Contemporary Art Awards (CCAA). Critics, too, have widely praised her work for its winking contemplation of life in contemporary China.
Now she’ll have the opportunity to win over another fan base.
Fei’s work often deals with the contradiction between fantasy and reality as it has manifested in modern mainland China: footage of teenage cosplayers, outsize costumes clashing with their modest homes; Chinese workers dressed up for their dream jobs, the drab factories that employ them lurking in the background.
In RMB City (2007-2011), perhaps her most well-known project, Cao Fei used the online world Second Life as her medium—creating both her own avatar and city within the digital space. The city is purposely absurd, littered with oversize fragments—a bicycle, a panda, a construction hat—all rendered in Second Life’s rough geometry. “From the start, she was poetically rebellious, and highly interested in questioning her reality through the creation of alternate realities,” says Klaus Biesenbach, director of MoMA PS1 and curator of the exhibition.
The exhibition offers installation pieces best viewed in person amongst the more familiar video and photo work. Biesenbach recently Instagrammed a video of one such work, in which two Roombas maneuver the surface of a white pedestal—reportedly an interpretation of a previous piece wherein two performers competed for attention atop a similar pedestal.