Cao Fei is a multimedia artist whose photography, performance, video and digital media works are often viewed as social commentary on the constant and rapid change occurring in China. She vividly reflects on the role of image, video and digital media in the younger generation's process of coping with conditions in the country and the formation of youth culture.
In her work RMB City: A Second City Planning (2007), Fei created a virtual city through the platform Second Life, an online space that mimics ‘the real world’, which became hugely popular in the 2000s. RMB City in this work represents a condensed incarnation of contemporary Chinese cities with most of their characteristics: a perfect cornucopia of modern life it may seem on the one hand, while on the other, it is a spacehighly self-contradictory, inter-permeative, entertaining, pan-political and laden with irony and suspicion. China’s obsession with land development here is extended from the physical world into the virtual world of Second Life. A rough hybrid of communism, socialism and capitalism, RMB City is a globalised digital sphere combining overabundant symbols of Chinese reality with cursory imaginings of the country's future.
Alongside this video is a longer film, People’s Limbo in RMB City (2009), which is a series of interactive experiential activities that take place in Fei’s RMB City. A reaction to the global economic crisis, the project is an exploration of the feelings of despair, denial and loss of control that accompany financial catastrophe and the simultaneous potential for progress toward rebirth, self-reliance and freedom.