china’s evolution is unmatched and local artist cao fei feeds her creative practice from her country’s accelerated urbanization and the effect globalization has had on it. through films, multimedia works, sculptures and photographs, cao has managed to portray china’s rapid change and how it has affected the younger generations.

 

on a trip to beijing for the reveal of BMW art car #18 designed by cao fei, designboom toured the artist’s studio located in a former movie theater.

cao fei studio visit in beijing designboom
cao fei’s studio is located in a former theater in beijing
image © designboom

 

 

born in 1978 in gangzhou, cao fei grew up absorbing western influences that contrasted with her father’s practice — a sculptor who dedicated his life to the production of realistic statues of chinese leaders like mao and deng xiaoping. by being the second generation of a family of sculptors, it’s no surprise cao turned into an artist herself, even if she rebelled against her family’s tradition in art. instead, she gained the ability of intertwining that long-established culture with the new modern one.

cao fei studio visit in beijing designboom
she moved into this space in decemeber 2015; the building will be soon demolished
image © designboom

 

 

to reflect on the rapid and chaotic changes that are occurring in chinese society today, cao fei mixes social commentary, popular aesthetics, references to surrealism, and documentary conventions. in ‘whose utopia’ (2006), cao explored the relationship between quotidian experiences and the dreams, desires and fantasies of workers at a light bulb factory. following that she continued her research by turning into the second life virtual world with a three-part video called ‘i.mirror’ (2007) where she transformed herself into an avatar. in 2014 she presented ‘la town: the new desert’ where she created a world disrupted by industrialization.

cao fei studio visit in beijing designboom
it was built in the 1970’s, following russian conventions 
image © designboom

 

 

cao fei’s parallels can also be seen throughout her beijing studio, one that she has occupied since december 2015. the artist has kept the furniture that used to occupy the former theater, preserving the integrity of the space formed in the 70’s. cao has personally collected posters and objects that are exhibited around the studio that will be demolished soon.

cao fei studio visit in beijing designboom
image © designboom

 

cao fei studio visit in beijing designboom
the theater used to screen films and also live drama performances
image © designboom

cao fei studio visit in beijing designboom
it closed to the public after the olympics in 2008
image © designboom

cao fei studio visit in beijing designboom
cao fei conserves the integrity of the space
image © designboom

cao fei studio visit in beijing designboom
an elevated room serves as the library
image © designboom

cao fei studio visit in beijing designboom
the original theater seats
image © designboom

cao fei studio visit in beijing designboom
cao fei’s moodboards
image © designboom

cao fei studio visit in beijing designboom
the studio’s kitchen 
image © designboom

cao fei studio visit in beijing designboom
image © designboom

 

cao fei studio visit in beijing designboom
the artist collects chinese posters that hang around the studio
image © designboom

 

cao fei studio visit in beijing designboom
cao fei’s signature on body parts of the BW art car
image © designboom

 

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