VIDEO ROOM Cao Fei "Shadow Life"
November 13 – 25, 2012

Cao Fei
"Shadow Life" (2011)

Opening of the exhibition: November 12, 2012 at 6 pm
On view through: November 25, 2012
Curator: Ewa Gorządek

We would like to invite you to the opening of the exhibition "Shadow Life" by the Chinese artist Cao Fei, as well as the inauguration of the VIDEO ROOM - a new, recurring project from the CCA, presenting to the public the most interesting video works by artists from around the world. As part of the project, in the coming months will will be able to see video works which have yet to be seen in Poland from Nathalie Djurberg and Christian Jankowski, as well as the most important Polish artists.

"Shadow Life" formally refers to Chinese shadow theatre, in which the figures are cut out of paper dolls, set in motion via poles, and are seen on a back-lit screen.
In Cao Fei’s film, this tradition has been combined with the involvement of actors which are animating the characters with their hands as well as the elements of scenography. The artist evokes in them memories from her own childhood, the retained climate of folk tales, and above all, the televised celebration of the Chinese Spring Festival Gala. On this past based background, appears a philosophical and political reflection on the rapid transformations taking place in modern China. Cao Fei shows the fluency of the world, where cultures mix, and all changes character in the rhythm of an accelerated evolution.

The story told in the film is comprised of three chapters: "Rock", "Dictator" and "Transmigration". In each of them there are brief text descriptions, but the narrative is conducted through the shadow theater. In the first chapter, a bird, a monkey, and an elephant are wondering, what is this mysterious object which they found, and that now reminds everyone of their favorite food. Suddenly, a hunter shows up, kills the animals, and discovers a lump of gold. He offers it to a blind man, who then takes the gold to the temple of Bodhisattva. There, he learns that this is just a piece of rock. The next chapter begins with a full demonstration of political enthusiasm. The crowds are waving small books, reminiscent of the famous "red book" with quotes from Mao. In the next scene we see bodies without arms grasping at a variety of animals, a tank is crashing down trees, and shovel excavators absorb the ground piece by piece. Instead of trees, tall masts with waving flags are growing, and the Dictator caricatures preach their message. In the final chapter, poignantly shown, is the escape of animals as well as humans from villages, seeking refuge from machines which level everything with the ground. The newcomers from the provinces, carrying their belongings in bundles, are looking for each other in a strange, dehumanized landscape of big cities, and in the last scene, they finally find one another.

Cao Fei (b. 1978) – Chinese artist living in Beijing who creates multimedia installations and video works. She is considered a key figure in the new generation of artists from mainland China. In her films and installations, she combines social issues with the aesthetics of pop culture, with references to surrealism and documentary strategies. She presents in them the violent and chaotic changes taking place in contemporary Chinese society. Her project RMB CITY (2008-2011) was presented at the Deutsche Guggenheim (2010), Shiseido Gallery, Tokyo (2009), Serpentine Gallery, London (2008) and at the Yokohama Triennial (2008); the work entitled, “i. Mirror by China Tracy” was shown in the Chinese Pavilion at the 52nd Venice Biennale (2007); “RMB CITY-A Second Life City Planning” was shown at the Istanbul Biennale (2007); “Whose Utopia” at TATE Liverpool (2007), “Nu Project” at the Lyon Biennale (2007). Cao Fei also took part in the 15th and 17th Biennale of Sydney (2006/2010), the Moscow Biennale (2005), the Shanghai Biennale (2004), in the 50th Venice Biennale (2003). Her works have also been shown at the Guggenheim Museum (New York), The International Center of Photography (New York), MoMA (New York), PS1 (New York), Palais de Tokyo (Paris), Musee d'Art Moderne de la ville de Paris (Paris), Mori Art Museum (Tokyo).
Cao Fei was the finalist for the Hugo Boss Prize in 2010, she has also won the 2006 Best Young Artist Award from the CCAA (Chinese Contemporary Art Award).

VIDEO ROOM is a new long term project of the Center of Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, which provides to the audience the best and newest creations of video art. Starting in November of 2012, every second Monday (beginning of 2013 -  every third) in one of the halls of the Ujazdowski Castle, the visitors will be able to view the works of renowned Polish and international video artists. We would like for Video Room along with Bank Pekao PROJECT ROOM (presentation of young polish art - every other Monday), and also later Performance Day to become a fixed point program for all who are interested in contemporary art.


CCA Media Patrons: Aktivist, Exklusiv, Stolica, Elle Decoration


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