the real & the possible…part 1
Continuing with tradition & ritual…
Guangzhou, China is the 18th largest city in the world. A decade ago, Guangzhou, China was the 45th largest city and has doubled to nearly 12 million.
At this rate, by 2020 Guangzhou will surpass New York as the third largest city on the planet. The city located on the Pearl River, is one of the most polluted waterways in the world.
Cao Fei was born in Guangzhou, China in 1978.
“Whose Utopia” 2006-2007 was filmed in the OSRAM Foshan light bulb factory in Guangdong, China. Cao Fei’s choice of the light-bulb industry recalls Ayn Rand’s 1938 dystopic novella Anthem, in which the light bulb symbolizes illuminating individualism in the comparative darkness of a collectivist society. And perhaps surprisingly, the work was commissioned by the Siemens Art Program.
“Factory Fairytale,” envisions the silent aspirations of laborers. Dancers and musicians move unacknowledged (but fully perceived and, no doubt, quietly savored) alongside laborers bent over numbing tasks. At the end of the segment, a laborer, who lives within the factory compound, lies in a bed held together by packing tape and looks out a window over rows of warehouses. So despite their individual dreams, industry (like communal living) still dominates reality.
Operating under the pseudonym “China Tracy,” Cao creates digitally animated films like “RMB City” (RMB being the abbreviation for Chinese currency). Here, she presents a perfectly constituted island-metropolis, where candy-striped smoke stacks suggest continuous industrial production, missiles make unremitting preemptive strikes, and ships move goods swiftly in and out of port. A giant shopping cart, filled with skyscrapers and religious monuments, floats nearby.
Even without a question mark, Cao’s title is inherently confrontational: It indicates that this is neither her idea of utopia, nor that of the workers who live under it. While the movie does not offer a definitive answer, Cao’s broader oeuvre offers a more obvious indictment?