History of Art and Architecture

Ellen Larson Colloquium

Wednesday, March 27, 2019 - 12:00pm

202, Frick Fine Arts Building

"Cao Fei's Nostalgia for the Future" 

Since 2015, contemporary Chinese artist Cao Fei has occupied a former PRC-era theater, transforming the space into a vehicle for creative research, production, and exhibition. Her ongoing exploration of both the theater and its surrounding neighborhood inform her understandings of not only PRC industrial history within a broader socio-political context, but also resurging connections to themes that exist across, within, and beyond traditional temporal frameworks. Cao Fei's 2018 work Asia One is her first full-length film made since moving into the theater. This space in which she works, fosters a pivotal relationship between her new work and intersecting affinities towards time, memory, and nostalgia. Drawing upon China’s utopian past and dreams of a fully automated future, Asia One demonstrates elements of “proleptic nostalgia.” Within a contemporary Chinese context, proleptic nostalgia may be understood as a unique process of memory formation positioned within the epistemic, often collective, hinges of “what is yet to come.” In other words, it is a temporally non-linear yearning to record both remembered and imagined emotional attachments, despite both globalizing and domestic conditions which engender the urge to forget. The multiplicitous and richly layered past-futures and future-pasts exhibited in Asia One are ultimately rooted within socio-historical environmental contexts from which they emerge. This marks a clear departure from previous creative methodologies which have largely defined Cao Fei’s almost twenty-year career.

Image: Cao Fei, Asia One, single-channel video still, 63min 20sec, 2018