Cao Fei ‘Meta-Mentary’ Opens at Lenbachhaus

Meta-Mentary, an immersive exhibition of Chinese post-digital artist Cao Fei has opened at the prestigious Lenbachhaus in Munich.  

Cao Fei: Meta-Mentary is located in Lenbachaus’s underground exhibition space, where visitors can enter the artists’s Metaverse populated by films, installations and interactive artworks. Cao Fei is celebrated internationally for her multi-disciplinary practice exploring how digital universes have become part of contemporary life. The term “post-digital” was coined in the early 2000s and refers to the artistic exploration of how the digital world invades our everyday lives. Originating in the digital world, post-digital art appropriates its structures and characteristics. Cao Fei explains: “I’m concerned about the digital virtual world, but I also care about the real feelings of human beings.”

Lenbachhaus Director Matthias Mühling with Cao Fei. Photograph by Culturalee.

Meta-mentary, invites visitors on an intriguing immersive journey into a subterranean exhibition space transformed by Cao Fei’s cinematic imagery and artistic vocabulary. After entering the Lenbachaus’s underground gallery space from street level via an escalator, visitors arrive via a walkway into the world of Meta-mentary and are greeted by a giant Octopus and screens featuring an animated Avatar named ‘Oz’.

Meta-mentary, curated by Eva Huttenlauch, offers a rare chance to view Cao Fei’s Trilogy of films – A Holiday, Isle of Instability and Still Alive – made during the Covid pandemic when China’s ‘Zero-Covid’ policy led to an extended lockdown and subsequent home schooling, medical emergencies and financial struggles. Also featured is one of Cao Fei’s seminal virtual artworks – the RMB City complex, created in 2006 in Second Life with her first Avatar, China Tracey. 

The final act of the exhibition is an exploration of Sino-Soviet relations between 1949 and 1990 through film, digital and documented elements. Cao Fei’s Matryoshka-Verse, Nova and Hongxia artworks reference the relationship between Communist China and Russia, who shared the longest land border in the world. Giant inflatable Matryoshka dolls are displayed near large screens showing Cao Fei’s surreal films.

Cao Fei is interested in the emotional reaction of humans to a hyper-technologized and hyper-connected contemporary world, and Meta-Mentary explores how digitalisation and the Metaverse are affecting our sense of self and blurring the boundaries between reality and fantasy. 

Cao Fei was born in Guangzhou, China, in 1978, as the daughter of two artists. She graduated from the local state art academy in 2001. As a child of the Pearl River Delta, she grew up in an area of China that was a centre of rapid economic growth and urban development. Pop culture, computer games, consumer electronics and the latest technologies were her youth companions. She has lived and worked in Beijing since 2006. In her films, photographs and walk-in multimedia installations, Cao Fei deals with the economic and societal transformations of living conditions that affect her and all of us. Digitalization, globalization, the transformation of urban and suburban structures and hence our living environments are at the core of her artistic work.

Cao Fei’s artistic explorations focus on the circumstances that shape our lives as humans, on how we react to the developments around us and adapt to them or actively incorporate them into our lives. Cao Fei’s works illustrate how we as humans cope with the beauty and at the same time the dangers of a technologized, globalized and hyper connected world and the physical and psychological effects it has on us; thereby touching and changing human experience and the perception of self at its core. For her work, the artist herself visits the virtual world using her avatars and she documents her perception and appropriation of virtual realities in a unique visual language creating distinctive artistic spaces. Her works oscillate between melancholy and humor, between utopia and dystopia, between beauty and horror.

Cao Fei’s art has been featured at numerous international exhibitions: Shanghai Biennale 2004, Moscow Biennale 2005, Taipei Biennale 2006, Sydney Biennale 2006 and 2010, Istanbul Biennale 2007, Yokohama Triennale 2008, Venice Biennale 2003, 2007 and 2015. Selected solo exhibitions: MoMA PS1, New York, 2016; Tai Kwun Contemporary, Hong Kong, 2018; K21, Düsseldorf, 2018; Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2019; Serpentine Galleries, London, 2020; UCCA Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, 2021; MAXXI Museo nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo, Rome, 2021; Pinacoteca de São Paolo 2023. In 2024 she was awarded the SCAD deFINE ART prize.

Cao Fei “Meta-mentary” is supported by the BMW Group with generous support of Förderverein Lenbachhaus e.V.

Cao Fei “Meta-mentary” is at Lenbachhaus until April 13, 2024 – September 8, 2024.

Images copyright Culturalee.

Zeen is a next generation WordPress theme. It’s powerful, beautifully designed and comes with everything you need to engage your visitors and increase conversions.

Top 3 Stories