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Isle of Instability (Supernova – Maxxi)
14 February 2022
Cao Fei: Supernova—on view 16 December 2021 – 8 May 2022 at MAXXI, the National Museum of 21st Century Arts, Rome—is the artist’s first solo exhibition in Italy. The exhibition presents an in-depth reflection on the speed of change, the relationship between reality and fantasy, tradition and innovation. The works on display create an immersive journey that starts from the real and at times private places of the artist’s life including her neighbourhood, studio and home, before progressing into a surreal virtual future.
Using language that is at once poetic, critical and ironic, Cao Fei addresses the most pressing issues of contemporary life. Her work takes us into the next millennium.
The exhibition includes one of Cao Fei’s newest works, Isle of Instability (2020), commissioned by Audemars Piguet Contemporary. In this multimedia work, the artist draws from her personal experience of living under lockdown during COVID-19 to explore the psychological repercussions of the pandemic and the extreme isolation it has caused.
Audemars Piguet Contemporary began collaborating with the artist on the new commission well before the onset of the pandemic. As case numbers increased, Cao Fei and her family found themselves in Singapore unable to return to their home in Beijing for nine months due to international travel restrictions. Together, Cao Fei and the Audemars Piguet Contemporary team agreed on a new subject for the commission to reflect the current state of the world. Developed with her daughter, Cao Fei’s Isle of Instability represents a broad reflection on the universality of the pandemic and offers a point of contact between all those who have lived through this unprecedented time.
Isle of Instability premiered at West Bund Art & Design in November 2020 and recently appeared in Cao Fei’s first solo show in mainland China at UCCA Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing from March to June 2021.
The practice of Chinese artist Cao Fei (b. 1978) bridges film, digital media, photography, sculpture, installation and performance, all of which capture her fascination with human responses to the rapid technological developments of the last two decades. Cao Fei explores a set of broader ideas that resonate with our contemporary experience of the world. This includes the omnipresence of the virtual; technology’s potential to alter our perception of self and the ways in which we understand reality; systems of production and the automated factory infrastructure that facilitates our desire to consume; our relationship to architecture and built environments that are constantly changing; and the significance of memory and the ways in which the past can come to haunt the present.
Cao Fei’s works have been exhibited at a number of international biennales and triennials, including the Shanghai Biennale (2004), the 15th & 17th Biennale of Sydney (2006 and 2010), the Istanbul Biennial (2007), and the 50th, 52nd & 56th Venice Biennale (2003, 2007 and 2015). In 2016, Cao Fei received her first solo exhibition at MoMA PS1, New York. Cao Fei’s recent projects include solo exhibitions at the Centre Pompidou, Paris (2019) and the Serpentine Galleries, London (2020). From March to June 2021, Cao Fei had her first major retrospective in mainland China at the UCCA Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing. Lastly, from December 2021 to May 2022, the MAXXI, Rome hosts the artist’s first solo exhibition in Italy.