“People’s Limbo in RMB City”
Cao Fei (SL: China Tracy)
At “Louis Vuitton: A Passion for Creation” Exhibition
Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong
May 22, 2009-August 9, 2009
“People’s Limbo” is a new series of interactive, experiential activities that take place in Cao Fei’s RMB City, a fantastical community in the vast virtual world of Second Life. A reaction to the global economic crisis, the project is an exploration of the feelings of despair, denial, and loss of control that accompany financial catastrophe, as well as the simultaneous potential for progress toward rebirth, self-reliance, and freedom. In the words of Lao Tze, “If you empty the self and relax your desires, you will know more clearly where you are heading.”
Beginning May 22, 2009, ten videos of the ten new People’s Limbo activities will be displayed in the Hong Kong Museum of Art, as part of the “Louis Vuitton: Passion for Creation” group exhibition. The videos offer a Real Life (RL) audience a unique view of the essence of the “People’s Limbo” experience, while Second Life (SL) users can experience the work firsthand. Via avatars, people may participate interactively in each of the ten activities, as if playing a virtual art game.
Some of these games are competitive and reflect the influence of past economic realities, like one in which the visitor is thrown into the middle of a dense bubble of chaotic, bouncing balls, only to find it increasingly difficult to maneuver her way out, mirroring the quick loss of control that occurs as an economic bubble builds (and quickly collapses). Others, like a sustainable community garden, are meditative, and represent idealized visions of the future.
Perhaps the penultimate People’s Limbo experience is to visit the foot massage parlor staffed by Karl Marx, Mao Zedong, a fictional Lehman Brothers executive, and Lao Tze. In their imagined dialogue, Marx’s avatar quips to Mr. Lehman Brothers: “To be frank, your idea of freedom has gradually drawn out human beings’ unsatisfiable endless desire”, to which the executive replies “But without desire, the world becomes so boring”. Their philosophical examination of all of these ideas continue until the executive dispenses with a final piece of advice: “Take all this as a journey in the ‘Limbo of Life’”.
In Real Life: Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong
In Second Life: RMB City: People’s Limbo
Special Thanks to Fondation Louis Vuitton pour la Création