New York Times, ART IN REVIEW, May 27

[ 2011-05-29 14:01:25 | 作者Author: caofei ]
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New York Times, ART IN REVIEW, May 27
CAO FEI: ‘Play Time’

In the last couple of years the Beijing-based artist Cao Fei has been building eerie simulacrums of modern Chinese society within virtual-reality games like Second Life. But in her latest show she works in real space, with all its complexities and restrictions, and engages older forms of entertainment and fantasy. Her photographs and videos are now populated by shadow puppets, skateboarders and children’s television characters instead of avatars.

The show centers on two short videos, both haunting. The three-part “Shadow Life” dramatizes folk tales, festivals and bits of political philosophy with silhouetted hand-puppetry. In the sequence called “Transmigration,” peasant figures move through a forest of raised forearms; in “Dictator,” animals are strangled and trees bulldozed. Western viewers may not catch all of Ms. Cao’s cultural references but will grasp the playful and sinister implications of her medium.

More focused is “East Wind,” for which Ms. Cao attached the smiling face of Thomas the Tank Engine to the front of a truck manufactured by the Dongfeng Motor Corporation. (The company name translates as “East wind,” in reference to Mao Zedong’s maxim “the East wind prevails over the West wind.”) Her video follows this chimera of a vehicle as it hauls debris from an urban construction site to a dump at the city’s edge, attracting smiles from children and perplexed stares from nearby motorists.

Children’s entertainment looks more infantile in Ms. Cao’s photographs, which import characters from British children’s television, and in her tabletop utopia “Play Time,” which invites viewers to explore models of famous architecture on miniature skateboards. But in the context of China’s crackdown on cultural expression — the artist Ai Weiwei is still in government custody — Ms. Cao’s juvenilia seems to express a longing for some basic adult freedoms.