Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cao Fei at ICP

The International Center for Photography is currently celebrating its Triennial with the signature exhibition "Dress Codes". The Triennial is a global survey of the most exciting and challenging new work in photography and video. This year, artists variously explore fashion—whether in everyday dress, haute couture, street fashion, or uniforms—as a celebration of individuality, personal identity, and self-expression, and as cultural, religious, social, and political statements.
Surprising enough, visiting the Center in Manhattan's Midtown, I found also a computer with Second Life running on it, featuring Chinese artist Cao Fei, known in-world as China Tracy.
Cao Fei has become deeply involved in Second Life. Her avatar is a striking Chinese woman who often wears shiny body armor.
In 2008, Cao Fei and a team of young web designers created RMB City, a metropolis inside Second Life that brings together various ancient and modern Chinese landmarks. Among the recent events in RMB City was a fashion shoot commissioned by Modern Weekly, a leading Chinese lifestyle magazine. For this project, a Second Life programmer modified numerous real-world runway looks to fit the measurements of China Tracy's virtual body. The resulting screenshots subsequently appeared as an editorial spread in Modern Weekly.
For the ICP Triennial, Cao Fei has installed this group of fashion photographs on billboards throughout RMB City. By maneuvering an avatar on a nearby computer, visitors can explore RMB City and discover Cao Fei's images.
Even if some critics claim that Second Life is dead, having Cao featured in the leading center for photography is an indication that Second Life (or at least parts of it) should be taken seriously as a new art form.

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