(edited by) Susanne Gaensheimer, Kathrin Beßen – Cao Fei


Hirmer Publishers, ISBN-13: 978-3777432045, German, 192 pages, 2019, Germany

Cao Fei is probably one of the most requested Chinese artists by US and EU art institutions. This can largely be attributed to a rare ability to translate glimpses of China’s rapidly changing culture for a Western audience. This is the catalogue of her solo exhibition at K21 Ständehaus in Düsseldorf, and includes two essays, two interviews, the works shown, a general catalogue of her works, and a bibliography. Her “exuberant ambiguity”, as Philip Tinari defines it in his essay, emerges in her mastery of playing with reality and inserting disconcerting ‘virtual’ elements, with or without technology, opening multiple windows onto the transformations her country has faced in the past couple of decades. Laurent Cornell quotes Colby Chamberlain in her essay, defining Fei’s work as a “logic of augmentation”. This logic can be experienced in her famous influential video “Cosplayers”, where reality is augmented; in her pioneering work in “I.Mirror” and “RMB City” using Second Life and machinima; and in her augmentation of the digital in her video-chat hacks in “Strangers”. Speaking of Fei’s work, Cornell says she feels like a ‘spy’. The feeling of being a spy prevails in Cao Fei’s representations of urban and virtual environments. The protagonists of the work are called upon to investigate both, questioning the construction of both the physical and the digital.