RMB City Preview Center Opens To The Public

July 25, 2008

After an official ground-breaking ceremony on July 14, the main islands in all four quadrants of RMB City completed terraformation (shaping of topography), and foundations were laid for key urban structures.
Now we are proud to announce the opening of the Preview Center, a specially-designed floating building, where the public can peer through the windows to view the ever-changing RMB City construction site beyond. Visitors may also learn more about the city through videos, photos, text, and even free gifts. Each week, a new construction-montage video will be added here, to give a “closer look” to the ongoing process.
To coincide with the opening of the Preview Center, the Serpentine Gallery in London launches its real-life (RL) presentation of the project in a dedicated gallery space on July 25. Like to know more about RMB City? We welcome you to join the “RMB City group”, to keep informed about your city in Second Life as it continues to grow and change.

Events,News,SL Events — admin, July 26, 2008 @ 9:33 pm

RMB City at the Serpentine Gallery (London, UK)

From July 26, 2008 onwards

Beijing-based artist Cao Fei (born 1978) is fusing fantasy with the contemporary Chinese city in her construction of RMB City, an experimental art community in the internet-based virtual world of Second Life.

Cao Fei, through her Second Life avatar ‘China Tracy’, spent a year exploring the possibilities of Second Life and produced the i.Mirror trilogy, 2007, a series of films that document her adventures, which were presented in the Chinese Pavilion at the 52nd Venice Biennale, 2007.

The Serpentine has commissioned the artist to present RMB City in the Gallery’s public space and to continue her investigation of this digital landscape and the development of RMB City. Once she has completed its construction in autumn 2008, the buildings of the virtual city will be occupied for two years by partners including institutions and individual collectors who will host exhibitions and cultural activities open to all Second Life users. The project explores the creative potential of an online art community, seeking to create the conditions for an expansive discourse about art, urbanism, economy, imagination and freedom.

Throughout the ‘construction process’ and actual operation period, the Gallery will show the progress of RMB City in its lobby and on its website. 
Reflecting on China’s recent urban and cultural explosion, the architecture of RMB City is an amalgam of Chinese icons, ancient and modern, from the panda to the Beijing National Stadium for the 2008 Summer Olympics.

The installation in the Gallery’s lobby presents two- and three-dimensional visualisations of RMB City as well as computer access to a virtual viewing platform over the construction site, which features weekly video updates of the construction process. The public can also access the virtual city via the Serpentine Gallery website www.serpentinegallery.org and the project’s website www.rmbcity.com. Ultimately, this experimental online Utopia seeks to create the conditions for an expansive discourse about art, urbanism, economy, imagination, and freedom; in other words, the virtuality that forms our contemporary reality.

Editors’ Notes

RMB City

Developer of RMB City: Cao Fei and Vitamin Creative Space

Facilitator: Uli Sigg

Images at www.serpentinegallery.org/press

For more information and interviews, please contact:

Rose Dempsey, 020 7298 1520, rosed@serpentinegallery.org

Fleur Treglown, 020 7298 1528, fleur@serpentinegallery.org

Events,News,RL Events — admin, July 25, 2008 @ 9:37 pm

UCCA (Beijing, China)

Jul 19, 2008-Oct 12, 2008

UCCA will display a significant selection of the contemporary pieces from the Ullens Foundation collection, in an exhibition called Our Future: The Guy & Myriam Ullens Foundation Collection. Cao Fei is one of the six newly commissioned artists (among a total of 60), and will develop her RMB City project in Second Life.

Events,News,RL Events — admin, July 17, 2008 @ 9:27 pm

RMB City Groundbreaking Ceremony

July 14, 2008

The official ground-breaking ceremony to launch the construction of RMB City took place on Monday July 14, 2008,on the future site of RMB City in Second Life.

The masters of ceremonies were Miniature Tigerpaw, project manager of RMB City, and Chenin Anabuki the founder and project manager of Avatrian, a Metaverse Development Company. The key speakers were China Tracy, Chief Developer of RMB City, and Freeway Mayo, CEO of RMB City, who each said a few words about their great hopes for this historic project.

After the speeches concluded, the more than a dozen attendants shared a champagne toast and gathered in a circle for the honorary ground-breaking. All team members were given customized RMB City shovels, and China Tracy was invited to turn over the first piece of sod for the new city. After the rest of the team joined in to dig together, RMB City was proclaimed officially under construction-laying a joyous foundation for the city to come.

Events,News,SL Events — admin, July 14, 2008 @ 8:59 pm

Arnolfini (Bristol, UK)

Jun 28, 2008-Aug 31, 2008

The Arnolfini experimental project Far West will explore the shifting of the economic centre of the world to the East. Cao Fei was invited to present the RMB City project both in the gallery and metro locations of the exhibition.

Description of image above
Events,News,RL Events — admin, June 28, 2008 @ 9:38 pm

Like Life, Art in America

Like Life

Art in America May, 2008

by Eleanor Heartney

Cao Fei, a young Beijing-based artist originally from Guangzhou who was previously known for provocative videos juxtaposing fantasy characters and gritty urban locales, has been exploring Second Life since 2006. She transforms her adventures there into artworks that have gained her a large international following. At Lombard-Freid Projects, she recently presented a pair of related works–i.Mirror, a three-part video shown at the 2007 Venice Biennale that she describes as a “virtual documentary” of her life in alternate reality, and “RMB City,” a project involving virtual real-estate sales that was included, in a different form, in the 2007 Istanbul Biennial.

Both works offer more conventionally grounded viewers an insight into the peculiar relationship between off-line and virtual reality. i.Mirror introduces us to China Tracy, Cao Fei’s Second Life avatar. She is a sexy young Chinese woman whose outfits include formfitting silver armor and knee-high fur boots worn with a miniskirt. The longest section of i.Mirror presents China’s meeting with Hug Yue, a Chinese youth with long blond hair and the world-weary air of a Romantic poet. She first encounters him playing the piano in an open plaza. From what appears to be another location, she joins him on electric guitar. They are seen together and separately in various settings–on a subway car that sails out of the city and into a verdant jungle before morphing into a hot air balloon, in a deserted diner, walking down a desolate alley that is suffused with light when China is joined by Yue. Their dialogue appears in a typewritten line across the bottom of the screen, as their actual communication did when they first met in cyberspace.

Gradually it is revealed that China’s handsome young swain is actually a 60-something American, though in Second Life–where, as China notes, one can be young forever–this doesn’t seem to be a big problem. After a number of encounters marked by ambivalent, semi-philosophical conversations whose desultory tone is reminiscent of French New Wave cinema, they say good-bye and return to their first-life selves.

Framing this narrative are two shorter video sections that evoke the flavor of the Second Life universe. The first of these offers a survey of the geography of Second Life, opening with a variety of For Sale signs indicating the availability of real estate in the virtual world. We are then taken on an excursion through forbidding modernist high rises, toxic landscapes, upscale beach houses and the interior of an art museum. The closing section presents a montage of avatars that inhabit Second Life, ranging from blood-spattered Goths and exotic dancers to stylish trend setters and anthropomorphized dogs and cats.

Throughout, i.Mirror re-creates scenes of urban dislocation and anomie similar to those that appeared as the real-life backdrop of one of Cao Fei’s earlier videos, which was filmed in her native Guangzhou. Titled COSPlayers (2006), it depicts young people in superhero and cartoon-character costumes playacting their way through the city. Many of the settings in the Second Life video’s landscape have a dystopic air, and despite the avatars’ ability to enact fantasies of unlimited movement while inhabiting impossibly glamorous personas, their world is tinged with melancholy, as when China Tracy’s paramour abandons his hipster avatar for an old-man persona that is presumably closer to his first life identity. At one point, the message scrolling across the bottom of the screen notes, “To go virtual is the only way to forget the real darkness.”

The second installation in the Lombard-Freid show, “RMB City” (RMB is the abbreviated term for Chinese currency, making the title mean, roughly, Money Town), was more upbeat. It offered an unfinished three-dimensional model in crisp white wood and plastic, a variety of colorful digital C-prints and a video fly-through, all promoting a new Asian island city Cao Fei is building, as China Tracy, in Second Life. “RMB City” is a collage of elements from contemporary China, ranging from familiar stereotypes like a flying Panda and a statue of a gesticulating Mao half sunk in the harbor, to landmarks of both Chinese history and its frantic recent development. High-rise structures are jammed together, factory chimneys spew fire, Tiananmen Square has become a swimming pool, the Three Gorges Dam is a giant fountain, and Beijing’s China Central Television building is suspended above it all by a crane. The gallery installation was arranged to suggest a real-estate office, in which parts of the city that China Tracy is developing were offered for sale: in Second Life, that transaction is in virtual dollars (redeemable, at a steep discount, in the real world); patrons of Cao Fei’s work can lease elements of her virtual real-estate portfolio for two-year stretches (payable in real-world cash).

In many ways, Second Life is the ultimate fulfillment of some of postmodern theory’s more provocative formulations–for instance, it offers a remarkably convincing version of Baudrillard’s simulacrum, a condition in which the “real” dissolves into an abstract network of signs. Similarly, postmodernism’s much touted notion of the self as a social construction becomes literal here, as people assemble their avatars from a variety of characteristics available in the virtual marketplace, transforming identity into pure commodity.

In the end, one is left with unanswered questions about Second Life and its attraction. Does the virtual universe provide an outlet for the imagination in a world otherwise lacking in individual freedom? More specifically, does Cao Fei’s use of it constitute an oblique criticism of contemporary China, where capitalist enterprise and real-estate development are carried on at breakneck speed beneath the eye of an ever-watchful Big Brother? Or is Second Life simply the latest version of Soma, the dream-inducing drug that controls and pacifies the population in Aldous Huxley’s dystopian 1932 novel, Brave New World? Cao Fei suggests that the truth is somewhere in the middle–that, as China Tracy remarks at one point, “We are not who we originally are and yet we remain unchanged.”


Press — admin, May 1, 2008 @ 6:03 am

The Avatar Bazaar, The Village Voice

The Avatar Bazaar

The Village Voice, April 1st , 2008

by R.C. Baker

We live in an age where we can assume any identity online, limited only by imagination and typing speed. And what New Yorker doesn’t yearn to be a real-estate mogul? Cao Fei (a/k/a China Tracy) here offers a chance to buy not a piece of Manhattan, but a stake in RMB City (named for the abbreviation for Chinese currency), a metropolis that exists only in the online community Second Life. Enter Lombard-Freid gallery and you’re greeted by neon logos, scale models, slick renderings, and other come-ons familiar from any condo sales office. But the current rapacious building boom in China is even more frenzied in the virtual realm, which sports levitating skyscrapers and an Olympic stadium perched over a digital ocean. The sales scheme is fascinating (what’s the tax bite in real dollars if you make an RMB killing?), but it’s Cao’s sweet 28-minute video, i.MIRROR, A Second Life Documentary Film (2007), that steals the show.

Mixing the poetry of Octavio Paz, haunting (when not rave-ready) music from a band called Prague, and the truncated syntax of 4 a.m. instant messaging, this “documentary” follows two animated characters, China Tracy and Hug Yue, as they wander through street-level grime and glass-tower opulence. Their dialogue is culled from actual Second Life online messages that Cao has edited into a surprisingly poignant script, typed out across the bottom of the screen-China Tracy : “For me, I can just act myself in SL.” Hug Yue: “We all do that. We do not act. We simply be who we are.” Yet later, when Hug’s hunky blond avatar cops to being a sixtysomething Californian retiree, China wistfully types: “Well, in SL, we are young forever.”

In i.MIRROR, the tug-o’-war between the real and the digital becomes earnestly emotional without the portentousness of a role-playing game or The Matrix. In the end, China Tracy-after a cathartic rave featuring many stylish SL avatars—struts across the cosmos. A fox’s tail flows from her elaborate cos-play outfit, as she muses: “I always imagine h man beings behind hollow digits, all those lonely souls. We are not what we originally are, and yet we remain unchanged.” Forget real estate—someone should pay this insightful and brash young artist to direct a movie version of Neuromancer. It might not have the pizzazz of a Wachowski Brothers epic, but it would certainly have more heart.

Press — admin, April 1, 2008 @ 6:06 am

Le Plateau (Paris, France)

Mar 13, 2008-May 25, 2008

Videos and images of the RMB City project were included in this large-scale solo retrospective of Cao Fei’s work, curated by Caroline Bourgeois (Le Plateau) and Zhang Wei (Vitamin Creative Space).

Events,News,RL Events — admin, March 13, 2008 @ 8:51 pm

Virtual Vision of an Eastern City, The AvaStar

Virtual vision of an eastern city

The AvaStar, Feb 29, 2008

By Isolde Flamand

A GROUND-BREAKING Chinese artist will highlight her work in SL at the opening of her RL exhibition in New York this week.

China Tracy, the avatar of Cao Fei who is renowned for using SL as the medium for her RL work, spoke exclusively to The AvaStar about her latest masterpiece, RMB City. It is described as a virtual China which combines communism, capitalism and Chinese mythology. It will be shown in the Lombard-Freid Projects gallery in Manhattan, opening this Friday.

The AvaStar: How did you come up with the idea?

China Tracey: I took half a year to adventure in SL, and finished a 28 minute-long SL documentary called ‘i. Mirror’. The film participated in The 2007 Venice Biennale and is now showing in New York. At the end of the Venice Biennale, I thought that maybe I could create a place that belonged to me within SL – my own city utopia.

TA: What does the city represent to you?

CT: RMB City (RMB refers to ‘renminbi’ or ‘people’s money’, China’s official currency) mixes the different elements of China. I’m very interested in the city as an organism and have done a lot of research on cities in China, and I’m hoping I can use my knowledge to build a Second Life version of my vision of the Chinese city today. All the cities currently in SL are Western-style, so Chinese users can’t find spaces that reflect their culture. SL is a big world, and you want to build something to locate your own identity.

TA: What is the future of SL as an art medium?

CT: SL is a good medium for art, also for architecture, fashion, business, neo-sociology research, communication. It’s such a big subject for different fields. Although I’m an artist, I hope my city will help build dialogue between different territories.

Press — admin, February 29, 2008 @ 6:08 am

Lombard-Freid Projects (New York, USA)

Feb 29, 2008-Apr 05, 2008

Cao Fei/China Tracy (as Chief Developer) established a temporary RMB City leasing office and showroom in New York’s Lombard-Freid Projects. In the gallery’s quasi-retail space, the public could view an RMB City model, promotional videos, and detailed preview images, as well as use laptops for a real-time glimpse of RMB City’s future construction site in Second Life.

Events,News,RL Events — admin, @ 2:18 am

Avatars and Antiheroes, A Guide to Contemporary Chinese Artist

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.

Press — admin, February 25, 2008 @ 6:10 am

10th Istanbul Biennial: Staging a Communication Utopia, Yishu

10th Istanbul Biennial: Staging a Communication Utopia

Yishu, January 2008, pp.89

By Hilary Tsui

After the flashy “Grand Tour” this past summer, the 10th Istanbul Biennial, under the curatorship of Hou hanru, just may have brought the fatigued international art community back to the real world. Despite the ever-accelerating global exchanges in all aspects of our life and the tireless pursuit of North/South, East/West dialogues by international organizations, the world is still studded with cultural misunderstandings, poverty, and war. So, with the title Not only Possible But Also Necessary, Optimism in the age of Global War, this year’s Istanbul Biennial chose to confront these intricate worldwide problems, providing a stage to revive the hope that art can be a catalyst of our time and might be able to respond to the failure of formal politics and government policies. This thematic focus helps to push this year’s biennial away from the elitist nature of contemporary art exhibitions. Hou set aside the standard, overly-theorized curatorial concept and pursued a broad investigation of urban life in an “era of globalization,” thereby examining pressing urban ailments and the cultural mutation triggered by the imperatives of globalization and neo-liberalism.

Re-appropriating the City

The Biennial’s premise was direct- the desire to examine or, better, to show how art can truly be an agent of change in contemporary art to manifest social change. Hou attempted to realize this conceptual ambition by working as an “urban guerrilla”: through experimenting with venues under transformation; through a public screening program , Nightcomers, which infiltrated the city by bringing the biennial to the general public; and through presentation platforms for art projects concerned with socio-political causes. By bringing art into the city and to places undergoing change, or on the verge of new development, Hou turned the traditional form of display-oriented biennials into a series of ephemeral interventions.

Press — admin, January 20, 2008 @ 6:11 am

Cao Fei Sets a Record Price for Virtual Art?, Art Newspaper

Cao Fei sets a record price for virtual art?

The Art Newspaper, Dec 7 2007

By Nadim Samman

Cao Fei sets a record price for virtual art?

Chinese artist Cao Fei has sold a piece of virtual art in Second Life-the online, avatar-based world-for $100,000 to a private European collector during the opening of Art Positions on Wednesday, The Art Newspaper has learned. The “unit” is one part of a virtual art world or “cultural platform” called RMB City that is being developed by Cao Fei over the next two years.Other units, many of which resemble well-known Chinese buildings, are on sale for between $80,000 and $120,000.

The director of Vitamin Creative Space , ZhangWei, who represents the artist, says the variations in price do not correspond to size but to the “aura” or “fame” of the unit’s real-world equivalent. Several of the buildings are versions of famous landmarks. The gallery hopes to gain “investment’ in five more spaces during the fair, to raise the initial web design costs of the project.Digital plans for the virtual development have also been selling well.

Cao Fei: virtually a record?

Vitamin Creative Space’s container at Art Positions is more estate agency than gallery. Pieces of virtual reality in the young Chinese artist Cao Fei’s RMB City, a new community within Second Life-the digital world “inhabited” by millions of residents-are on sale, billed as “A Great Real Estate Opportunity in Second Life” and “A Unique Investment Possibility in First Life”. The development aims to be a pioneering step in the creation of the “art world 2.0” (the next generation of the art world online). The virtual properties, which resemble iconic Chinese buildings such as Beijing’s Forbidden City, function as platforms for international art institutions, non-profit art organisations and one-off projects. When private collectors invest in a “unit” they gain two years “access” to the space and curatorial advice. At the end of this period you receive either documentation of its programme, which will be commissioned by Cao, or a multimedia work of art. Moving beyond traditional webpages, the close proximity and organisation of these virtual exhibition sites within this cutting- edge digital world will, the artist hopes, engender unprecedented “art structures”, cultural collaborations and information sharing. This project is a continuation of Cao’s artistic examination of the possibilities of Second Life. This summer the artist exhibited i.Mirror, a documentary film about her online love affair, in the China Tracy Pavilion project at the 52nd Venice Biennale.

Press — admin, December 12, 2007 @ 6:13 am

Shenzhen & Hong Kong Bi-city of Urbanism and Architecture Biennale (Shenzhen, China & Hong Kong SAR)

Dec 08, 2007-Mar 08, 2008

Plans for RMB City were presented as part of this cross-border biennale on urbanism and architecture, addressing the question: what makes a city “real” in the age of surreal development.


Events,News,RL Events — admin, December 8, 2007 @ 2:14 am

Art Basel Miami Beach (Miami, USA)

Dec 06, 2007-Dec 09, 2007

RMB City project was presented at Art Basel Miami in a 13.5-meter- long truck container. Slogans and banners outside advertised “virtual real estate” as a means of promoting the RMB City concept in Second Life. Here visitors could witness the evolution of the project thus far: from video prototype to Second Life construction site to RL (real-life) promotion of virtual city development.


Events,News,RL Events — admin, December 6, 2007 @ 2:07 am
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