Speaker: Cao Fei
Respondent: Nick Montfort
The modern narrative labyrinth was first used by the Argentinian novelist Jorge Luis Borges, who in his short story, The Garden of Forking Paths, used time, as a metaphor, to weave the myriad of time – divergent, intertwined, convergent, parallel and uninterrupted, into an ever-growing, intricate web.
In Cao Fei’s labyrinth of video narratives, she doesn’t present fiction as reality; she converts the real into the fictional code. The virtual and the real mix together, nesting layers, generating new beginnings or endings. It is this narrative labyrinth that makes the real and the fictional almost identical at the same time. The narrative takes the viewer on an adventure into the unknown, or perhaps at the next fork in reality one will meet up with the illusion in my images.
Cao Fei (b. 1978, Guangzhou) is one of the most innovative Chinese artists to have emerged on the international scene. Currently living in Beijing, she mixes social commentary, popular aesthetics, references to Surrealism, and documentary conventions in her films and installations. Her works reflect on the rapid and developmental changes that are occurring in Chinese society today.
Cao Fei’s works have been exhibited at a number of international biennales and triennales, including the Shanghai Biennale (2004), the Moscow Biennale (2005), the Taipei Biennial (2006), the 15th & 17th Biennale of Sydney (2006 and 2010), the Istanbul Biennial (2007), the Yokohama Triennale (2008) and the 50th, 52nd & 56th Venice Biennale (2003, 2007 and 2015). Exhibitions and screenings of her work have taken place at the Serpentine Galleries (2006 and 2008) and Tate Modern in London (2002, 2013 and 2014); the New Museum (2009), the Guggenheim Museum (2011 and 2018) and MoMA in New York (2015 and 2016); the Fondation Louis Vuitton (2016), the Palais de Tokyo (2005 and 2017) and the Centre Pompidou in Paris (2003, 2014 and 2019). In 2016, Cao Fei held her first solo exhibition in MoMA PS1 in New York. In 2017, she was the first Chinese artist to receive the BMW Art Car Project.
Cao Fei’s recent projects include the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Chinese Art Initiative at the Guggenheim Museum in New York (2018), a solo show at the Tai Kwun Contemporary in Hong Kong (2018), a retrospective at K21 Düsseldorf (2018), a solo exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris (2019), and an Augmented Reality Art Project by APPLE and the New Museum in New York (2019), Blueprints at the Serpentine Galleries in London (2020). Her recent projects are: a solo exhibition Cao Fei: Staging the Era at the UCCA Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing (2021) and a solo exhibition at the MAXXI, the National Museum of 21st Century Arts in Rome (2021).
She was a nominee for the finalist of Hugo Boss Prize 2010 and the Future Generation Art Prize 2010. She received the Chinese Contemporary Art Award (CCAA) Best Young Artist Award in 2006 and Best Artist Award in 2016. She was also the recipient of Piedra de Sal Award at Cuenca Biennale in 2016.
Cao Fei was on the jury of The Selection Committee for the Curatorship of the 8th Berlin Biennale (2014), the jury of The Bonnefanten Award for Contemporary (2016), and the jury of Hugo Boss Asia Art Prize (2019). She was the nominator of the Rolls-Royce Art Programme Muse (2019).
Respondent: Nick Montfort studies creative computing. As a poet and artist, he uses computation as his main medium and seeks to uncover how the material and formal qualities of computing are entangled with each other and with culture. His computer-generated books of poetry include #! and Golem. His digital projects include the collaborations The Deletionist and Sea and Spar Between. His MIT Press books, collaborative and individual, include The New Media Reader,Twisty Little Passages,Racing the Beam, and Exploratory Programming for the Arts and Humanities. He is professor of digital media at MIT. He lives in New York City.
Part of ACT’s Spring 2021 Lecture Series, The Incidence of Fingerprints When Earth Meets the Sky.