Cao Fei: Constructing ‘Whose Utopia’

Cao Fei produced Whose Utopia during her residency at a lighting factory in Foshan in the Pearl River Delta region. She began by giving factory workers—migrants with modest means and limited education—a questionnaire, asking about their backgrounds and prospects for the future.

She later invited some of them to break away from routine and perform their secret aspirations alongside production lines. In the video, she juxtaposes shots of modern machinery with scenes depicting personal dreams, thereby questioning the idea of utopia in an age of economic reform and globalisation.

Cao is known for her video and multimedia installations, which act as critical commentary on China’s recent rapid urbanisation and also function as a history of the Pearl River Delta.

A still from a single-channel video of a young woman dressed in a ballet costume standing amongst rows of machines on a factory floor.

Cao Fei, Whose Utopia, 2006, digital video (colour, sound). M+ Sigg Collection, Hong Kong. By donation. © Cao Fei

Part of the series “Inside the M+ Sigg Collection

Inside the M+ Sigg Collection introduces you to the M+ Sigg Collection, recognised as the world’s most comprehensive and important collection of Chinese contemporary art.