Cao Fei’s ‘Haze and Fog’ is a new type of zombie movie set in modern China made by one of the most important Chinese artists working today. Working with film, photography, installation and performance Cao Fei probes her personal and cultural relationship to metropolitan China.
Rather than positioning activity as good vs evil, Cao Fei’s major new video commission explores how the collective consciousness of people living in the time of what the artist calls “magical metropolises” emerges from seemingly tedious, mundane, day-to-day life. This magic reality is created through a struggle at the tipping point between the visible and the invisible.
Zombies have long been an important metaphor in Western popular culture but not so in China. Often violently blank they allow for evil motives to be projected onto them. In the western zombie film the zombie’s brain is dead but the body is alive. In ‘Haze and Fog’the ‘walking dead’ are people with something dead inside only not their brain but their soul. The artist has departed from the like of U.S. TV show ‘The Walking Dead’, or the horror adventure game ‘Silent Hill’, and their protagonists’ search for equilibrium. Instead of strong violence and shock, or a tense atmosphere through the unseen, Cao Fei’s ‘Haze and Fog’ examines people up close, slowly and in detail. Zooming into the international modern cells of new immigrants moved from traditional housing areas, we see people whose daily rituals have changed and traditions lost.
The artist focuses on the middle class people who have entered into this new fog of neutral modernity in their house cells, and the community of people created around them as service industries such as cleaners, real estate agents, prostitutes, deliveries, security and baby sitters. ‘Haze and Fog’ shows the miracles of the world are blurring and we need something special to help us see more. Her film is about the invisible miracles of these potentially lost stationary lives.
The characters in ‘Haze and Fog’ are symbolic characters of traditional and modern China. What at first glance may seem a critical glance at modernized Chinese culture in nostalgic favor of older wisdom is a more complex use of characters to question our understanding of right and wrong, progress or tradition.
Cao Fei’s work often questions our understanding of real experience and the importance of fantasy in accepting our position in the world. This can be through an exploration of ‘cosplay’, where game users dress as video game characters in real life, the digital realm of Second Life or film work exploring Hip Hop culture’s impact in China.
Text by Gavin Wade from Eastside Projects
‘Haze and Fog’ is produced by Eastside Projects and Vitamin Creative Space, and commissioned by University of Salford and Chinese Art Centre, Eastside Projects, and Bath School of Art and Design, Bath Spa University, with Vitamin Creative Space. Supported by Arnolfini. Special Thanks to Elena Hill.
Supported by: Tate Modern