Avatars and Antiheroes, A Guide to Contemporary Chinese Artist
Feb 29, 2008. P8, 20-23 and head page.
By Claudia Albertini.
“I construct, and I am constructed in a mutually recursive process that continually engages my fluid, permeable boundaries and my endlessly ramifying networks. I am a spatially extended cyborg” (William J.Mitchell). This is the impressive overture to I-Mirror, the documentary film starring and directed by China Tracy, Cao Fei’s avatar in the three-dimensional online virtual world Second Life. This project, presented at the 2007 Venice Biennale, explores the boundaries between physical space and cyberspace through the character of China Tracy, digital avatar and founder of the virtual RMB City, who embodies the dreams and the reality of China’s younger generation. At the same time, the work is a platform for discussion about the influence the virtual world is exerting on our perception of the real and on our social relationships.
Growing up in the information era, and influenced by Hong Kong and Taiwanese pop culture as well ad by the world of new subcultures shaped by Japanese manga, America rap, and Chinese TV drama, Cao is an astute and powerful commentator on the trends of the new millennium. By the age of twenty she had already directed a therter play, and performance remains a central part in all her works. One of the pioneers in the use of digital video in China, Cao explored and documents the new social realities of daily life, focusing on the younger generation, their indifference and sense of alienation, their lack of recognition of the past and inabiility to project into the future. Her first video, Imbalance 257(1999) portrays her friends’ lives at art college. The narrative of this piece blurs the boundaries between illusion and reality, rationality and absurdity: “Imbalance is our ongoing experience… a disease of adolescence,” Cao states. Humorous and ironic, her works narrate dreamlike and bizarre experience that guide the audience through the realm of this new generation’s myths and anxieties.