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Tai Kwun Contemporary stages: Cao Fei's first institutional solo exhibition in Asia
Rumba, 2015–2018.

HONG KONG.- Tai Kwun Contemporary is staging a solo exhibition that captures some of the most remarkable aspects of the Chinese visual artist Cao Fei, an exhibition entitle A hollow in a world too full. The exhibition, presented by UCCA, Beijing, runs from 8 September to 9 December 2018 at the art galleries in Tai Kwun.

Cao Fei is one of the most renowned contemporary Chinese artists of her generation. Born in 1978 in Guangdong, China, she is widely known for her multimedia installations and artworks which explore the realities of young Chinese in a fast-changing society. The artist mixes social commentary, pop aesthetics, references to surrealism and documentary conventions in her films and installations.

A hollow in a world too full at Tai Kwun Contemporary is Cao Fei’s first large-scale exhibition in Asia. It follows the unprecedented success and international exposure brought by the artist’s mid-career retrospective at MoMA PS1 in New York. With her recent shift in practice and focus on the moving image, Cao Fei is fascinated by the collision of histories at Tai Kwun, at the restored Central Police Station compound, and raises questions about the enforcement of constraints and the boundaries of freedom.

Tobias Berger, Head of Arts, Tai Kwun, said, “Bringing the innovative art of Cao Fei to Hong Kong furthers our mission to be a space in which people are inspired and transformed by contemporary art. We encourage everyone to come and explore the past, present and future of Tai Kwun, through the unique lens of Cao Fei and her creative collaborators.”

Prison Architect
The tone of the exhibition is set with the new film installation Prison Architect — an ambitious project made possible by Tai Kwun Contemporary for UCCA and representing the first collaboration between Cao Fei and the Hong Kong cinematographer Kwan Pun Leung. The film makes references to colonial history, the Chinese and global contemporary, as well as Hong Kong cinema which has profoundly influenced the artist since her childhood; the work asks viewers to consider their own trials in light of the inmates who previously inhabited the space.

Prison Architect engages directly with Tai Kwun’s layered history, unfolding as a poetic dialogue between the centre’s penal past and its present and future as a cultural space. Cao Fei challenges the presentation of moving images in museum spaces, assembling the narrative through kinetic sculptures, photographs, videos and performance that are carefully installed throughout three floors of the art galleries at Tai Kwun.

An artist book of the same title Prison Architect, including photographs from the film, parts of the film script, and literary references, has been launched together with the exhibition; it is available for sale at Tai Kwun.

Revisiting Creative Highlights
Besides the newly produced Prison Architect, the exhibition also revisits Cao Fei’s creative highlights across the last decade, providing a multi-layered view of the artist. This constellation of artworks, exploring fabricated realities, offers a continuum of visual experiences rather than simply a collection of objects on display. Themed around imprisonment and fiction, the exhibition encourages introspective questioning and opens up given ideas about the spaces of our existence.

An Innovative Chinese Artist
Philip Tinari, Director of UCCA and the curator of the exhibition, states that Cao Fei’s art is a study in exuberant ambiguity. Her early works were among the first to tackle the vibrant youth, factory, online, and regional cultures of millennial China, capturing and reflecting upon the new kinds of human subjects and social relations that its economic transformation was making possible. Neither celebratory nor critical, and always with an eye for the surreal and the fun, her explorations propose characters and scenarios that question larger realities by deviating from them, creating hollows — spaces for suspended reflection — in a fast-moving world full of people, objects, and ideologies.

Cao Fei has previously shown in biennials and triennials in Venice, Istanbul, Sydney, Yokohama, Moscow, Taipei, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, and at museums including the Guggenheim, MoMA, Serpentine Gallery, Tate Modern, Centre Pompidou, Palais de Tokyo, Fondation Louis Vuitton, Long Museum, and UCCA. Cao Fei has been named the “Best Young Artist” (2006) and the “Best Artist” (2016) by the Chinese Contemporary Art Awards.

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