The Mistake Room presents Chinese artist Cao Fei’s first solo exhibition in Los Angeles. Shadow Plays brings together two of the artist’s landmark projects, marking the US exhibition premiere of her new zombie film, Haze and Fog, and the LA debut of RMB City, a project completed between 2007-2011 in the virtual world of Second Life. Shadow Plays opens September 16, 2015.

Cao Fei creates universes in her works–surreal dystopias and fantastic utopias–that highlight social frictions and contradictions, particularly amidst the rapidly changing immediate environment she inhabits. Her work has been marked consistently by a keen understanding of global popular culture and the deep psychological impact of new technologies; identifying profound cultural shifts with an abiding sense of playfulness.

Haze and Fog (2013) is a zombie film set in present-day China, a meditation on a pervasive feeling of social and cultural alienation among the burgeoning middle class of Beijing. The wordless narrative unfolds in one of the now ubiquitous apartment towers crowding the landscape of the city, populated by members of the newly booming service industries and those who serve them: real estate agents, cleaners, security guards, young couples, retirees, delivery men, nannies and prostitutes. Quiet tension builds scene after scene as glimpses of the strange daily activities of the building dwellers and workers accumulate, refracted in the literal haze and emotional fog of what the artist calls the “over-imaginative reality” of 21st Century Beijing. The extended metaphor of the zombie offers a concise, poetic, and occasionally comically absurd descriptor for all of us as we travel through our quotidian routines.

The exhibition also features videos that capture aspects of the complex RMB City project (2007-2011), a virtual metropolis developed by Cao Fei’s avatar, China Tracy, within the virtual realm of Second Life. RMB City became a site for experimentation and collaboration where the historical, simulated and real mingled in the wake of the global economic collapse. RMB City Planning (2007-2011) showcases the development of this metropolis over the course of five years. Sweeping camera shots and an optimistically dreamy soundtrack of electronic music — cribbed from the language of real estate sales films — reveal a society that condenses elements of rapidly growing Chinese cities and their complex, hybridized politics and economics. The waters of the Three Gorges flow from the Tian’anmen Rostrum; a giant industrial smokestack spews fire into the sky; Guanyin floats in a shopping cart near Beijing’s National Stadium; and all of this is presided over by a deconstructed Chinese flag, aloft over RMB City along with a perpetually active construction crane and a floating panda bear. In People’s Limbo in RMB City (2009), a series of activities and scenarios unfold in RMB City. Avatars of Karl Marx, Chairman Mao, Lao Tzu, and a Lehman Brothers executive look for work, play games, worship, cultivate and destroy together. These fantasy vignettes are historical mash-ups that could and would play out on a daily basis in the nooks and crannies of China Tracy’s world.

Shadow Plays is organized by The Mistake Room and curated by Kris Kuramitsu, TMR Deputy Director and Senior Curator.

The Mistake Room’s programs are made possible thanks to the generous support of its Board of Directors; Big Mistake Patron Group; Mistake Patron Group; Director’s Council; and Contemporary Council. Special thanks to the Fowler Museum at UCLA. In-Kind Support is provided by House Beer.


Cao Fei (b. 1978) is a Chinese multimedia artist, born in Guangzhou and living and working in Beijing. She received a BFA from Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts in 2001. She has exhibited widely since the early 2000’s, including exhibitions at the Serpentine Gallery, London; The PinchukArtCentre, Kiev; Tate Liverpool; Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin; and Secession, Vienna among many others. Her work has been included in biennials in Sydney, Moscow, Istanbul, Sao Paulo, Shanghai, Lyon, Yokohama, Berlin, Gwangju, and Venice. Her videos have been screened at institutions around the world, including the Tate, London; MoMA, New York; Palais de Tokyo, Paris; and the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo. Currently, her work can be seen through November 22nd at the 56th Venice Biennale: All The Worlds

Futures curated by Okwui Enwezor.


The Mistake Room (TMR) is a space for the creation and experience of art and ideas. Committed to expanding the contributions artists make to the world in meaningful ways, TMR supports emerging and established artists and cultural producers working around the globe through ambitious, research-driven commissions, exhibitions, programs, and publications that transform conventional presentation formats and audience engagements while encouraging critical discourse and informed debate about the political, economic, social, and cultural contexts that shape our now. Through institutional collaborations, residencies, and professional development initiatives, TMR also supports artists living and working in our city—helping create expansive opportunities for their work at home and beyond.

Admission to all exhibitions and programs at The Mistake Room is free. Visit www.tmr.la for current and upcoming exhibition and program information.

HOURS: Wed-Sat 11am-6pm, Closed Sun-Tue. The Mistake Room is located at 1811 E. 20th Street Los Angeles, CA 90058. Parking is available in a small lot on site.

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