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spotlight-studios
18th November 2013

Cao Fei

Holly Smith visits the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Arts in Manchester’s Northen Quarter… A place with a population of over 1.35 billion people, the second largest country by land area, and the third most visited country in the world. China is a place where the children are the smartest in the world according to testing […]
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Holly Smith visits the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Arts in Manchester’s Northen Quarter…

A place with a population of over 1.35 billion people, the second largest country by land area, and the third most visited country in the world. China is a place where the children are the smartest in the world according to testing in 2009, where access to foreign media is restricted and only 34 foreign films a year are allowed to be shown in cinemas.

There is no augmenting that this country is breathtaking and with many years of traditions and rituals a truly unique identity has been formed for the people who live there. However within our modern world, China is in danger of losing all of this.

Gross domestic product has risen by 536 percent since 1990 triggering huge changes in society. Rapid urbanization and an ever growing gap between rich and poor are just two of the outcomes. Constantly piercing the border of China is influences from the western world, and these are just adding to the chaotic changes that are readily occurring in the country today.

This is the thinking behind one of the exhibitions currently being shown in the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Arts here in Manchester. Cao Fei, one of the most significant artists of a new generation emerging from main land China has ambitiously taken on the zombie film genre to create a stunningly imaginative piece of visionary art. Using photography, installation and performance to communicate her relationship to china, the short film, entitled Haze and Fog, is set in modern day Beijing. The story introduces certain stereotypical characters from different walks of life across the city and through intertwining scenes; a witty horror story filled crucially with hope emerges. Cao Fei has said that she believes “everywhere is the same”, enforcing the changes that her home country has seen recently. In Haze and Fog she really tries to capture this opinion by creating confusion for both the characters and to the audience. Similarly, by using characters from both the middle and the lower class, Fei shows the audience how the gaps between Chinese societies are forming.

The film is based on personal experiences, however Cao Fei does not disappoint her avid fans, and sticking to her usual work there are some truly surreal elements which appear throughout the 40 minute piece, including a young women taking a bath filled with watermelon balloons.

As an audience, you can see that she has tried to steer away from the western world in this film, by creating zombies who are not brain dead, but people with death inside their souls, showing that this is her opinion of what is happening to the people of China today.

I think that for anyone interested in Chinese culture, this exhibition is a must-see, because not only is it a strikingly creative piece of artwork, but it makes the audience consider what the future of china and its people will be. I think that Cao Fei has done credit to her country and I am incredibly eager to know what her next project will be.

 


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