Period & Style
This video is excerpted from the Season 5 episode Fantasy premiering on Wednesday, October 14, 2009 at 10pm (ET) on PBS (check local listings). Fantasy presents four artists—Cao Fei, Mary Heilmann, Jeff Koons, and Florian Maier-Aichen—whose hallucinatory, irreverent, and sublime works transport us to imaginary worlds and altered states of consciousness. Cao Fei was born in Guangzhou, China in 1978; she lives and work in Beijing. Cao’s work reflects the fluidity of a world in which cultures have mixed and diverged in rapid evolution. Her video installations and new media works explore perception and reality in places as diverse as a Chinese factory and the virtual world of Second Life. Applying strategies of sampling, role play, and documentary filmmaking to capture individuals’ longings and the ways in which they imagine themselves—as hip-hop musicians, costumed characters, or digitized alter egos—Cao Fei reveals the discrepancy between reality and dream, and the discontent and disillusionment of China’s younger generation. Depictions of Chinese architecture and landscape abound in scenes of hyper-capitalistic Pearl River Delta development, in images that echo traditional Chinese painting, and in the design of her own virtual utopia, RMB City. Fascinated by the world of Second Life, Cao Fei has created several works in which she is both participant and observer through her Second Life avatar, China Tracy, who acts as a guide, philosopher, and tourist.