QUESTIONS: Cao Fei

The following questions can be used to spark conversation before, during, and after viewing the artist's film segment. They were compiled from our Educators' Guides and Screening Toolkits. We strongly encourage active viewing strategies that involve audiences in discussion in order to anticipate and set-up the ideas in the film, clarify content, or further the ideas while watching, and gives viewers the opportunity to process and re-consider their ideas after watching. Additional resources and strategies for teaching with films and working with contemporary art can be found in Teach.


"Whose Utopia," 2006. Production stills, high definition single-channel color video with sound, 20 minutes. © Cao Fei. Courtesy the artist and Lombard-Freid Projects, New York.

Before Viewing
Discuss the concept of utopia. What makes something utopian? How does technology contribute new ways of defining and imagining utopia?

Where do cultural trends come from, and how do they spread? Define the terms street culture and popular culture. How do they differ? In what cases might they be the same?


SEGMENT: Cao Fei in "Fantasy"

While Viewing
To what forms of popular culture does Cao Fei refer during the segment, and how do they influence her work? Define the terms cosplay, hip-hop, and avatar, and discuss how students personally relate to them.

List the examples of role-playing presented in Cao Fei's work and her segment. What kinds of characters and avatars does she create? How do they interact with their environments?


"Dog Days (Rabid Dogs Series)," 2002. Digital C-print, 35 2/5 x 23 31/50 inches. © Cao Fei. Courtesy the artist and Lombard-Freid Projects, New York.

After Viewing
Cao Fei says that she thinks it is very common in human nature to dream of establishing one's own rules of the game. How does Cao Fei's work in Second Life or in her videos illustrate this observation? How does her work provide a platform to experiment with utopian concepts or political ideals?

Discuss the term cultural mobility and how it relates to Cao Fei's observation: "Neither cosplay nor hip-hop is native to China. But when we experience cosplay, we feel that it has become indigenous and original."

Cao Fei's avatar explains the artist's work iMirror: "Everything is much more intense than the real world. That's why so many people get hooked on Second Life. In it, they try to find a kind of life with emotions that they want for themselves in real life. But in the end, you will find that in this documentary, that is something beyond reach."

What role does technology play in our ability to fantasize? How might fantasy be a strategy to cope with something that is beyond one's reach?