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Images of Urban China in Cao Fei's 'Magical Metropolises'

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)202-225
Number of pages24
JournalChina Information
Issue number2
Published23 Jun 2015


  • Cao_Fei_CI_AAM

    Cao_Fei_CI_AAM.docx, 66.3 KB, application/vnd.openxmlformats-officedocument.wordprocessingml.document

    Uploaded date:15 Feb 2016

    Version:Accepted author manuscript

King's Authors


This article examines the moving image works of Chinese artist Cao Fei as a response to China’s rapid urbanization and the transformation of its existing urban spaces which are no longer shaped by socialism but instead by what this article considers as China’s engagement with neo-liberalism, including and facilitated by globalization. The urban sprawl of the Pearl River Delta inspired Rem Koolhaas’s writings on the ‘generic city’, which he celebrates precisely for its blandness. Cao herself is from Guangzhou. Yet, in works such as RMB City, Haze and Fog, Whose Utopia, and Hip Hop: Guangzhou, Cao creates what she calls ‘magical metropolises’. This article asks what kind of responses Cao’s ‘magical’ works are to contemporary Chinese urbanization. As part of the answer to this question, it applies four hermeneutic frameworks to analyse the works themselves. The findings from each of those frameworks indicate that Cao’s work not only reflects the current Chinese urban condition, but also participates and intervenes in it in various ways.

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