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RMB City is a virtual city in the online world of Second Life, planned and developed by Beijing artist Cao Fei (SL: China Tracy). Launched in 2008, and open to the public since January 2009, RMB City is a platform for experimental creative activities, one in which Cao Fei and her collaborators use different mediums to test the boundaries between virtual and physical existence. As a laboratory for investigations in art, design, architecture, literature, cinema, politics, economy, society, and beyond, RMB City is constantly nourished by new and innovative projects, and supported by leading international art institutions and networks. As a model of avant-garde urban planning, it traverses the boundaries between past and future, real and virtual to link China and the cosmopolitan contemporary world.
In 2009, RMB City was a lab for both filmmaking and live theater. Cao Fei’s first documentary film after building RMB City, The Birth of RMB City, took a dreamy and epic look at the city, showing how it was constructed, but also highlighting it’s fragility by depicting an inevitable demise. After this film was completed, she invited different artists to use various mediums to create different live artworks, and those works also became the life of the on-line city. Based on those creative actions, Cao Fei made two films in the video format: People's Limbo and Live in RMB City, both of which became chronicles of human experience in RMB City.
Cao Fei does not only investigate in virtual space however, and in 2009, she traversed boundaries to bring RMB City to the real life space by creating RMB City Opera. This stage performance brought the interaction and tension between real and virtual identities to light in front of an audience, by using both physical and Second Life spaces to set the stage for interaction between actors and avatars.
The running of RMB City is extensively documented on its official website.
RMB City in RL (Real-life)
Throughout the “construction process” and actual operation period of RMB City in 2008, the Serpentine Gallery in London displayed its progress in a dedicated physical space. Since then, RMB City has been exhibited in museums, galleries, and institutions around the world.
Virtual institution- and individual collector-“managed” buildings inside RMB City will hold regularly changing exhibitions and events open to all Second Life users.
Selected RMB City Artworks and Documentation
- i.Mirror, Cao Fei, Video, 2007
- RMB City: A Second Life City Planning, Cao Fei, Video, 2007
- The Birth of RMB City, Cao Fei + RMB City, Video, 2009
- People's Limbo in RMB City, Cao Fei + RMB City, Video, 2009
- Fashions of China Tracy, Cao Fei + RMB City, Digital Prints, 2009
- Live in RMB City, Cao Fei + RMB City, Video, 2009
- RMB City Construction, Video Clips, 2008
- NO LAB in RMB City, Cao Fei + MAP OFFICE, Video, 2008
- Qi of RMB City, SL project by guest artist Huang He + RMB City / Video by Cao Fei / Co-producer: Kaai Theater, Festival PERFORMATIK 09, Brussels, 2009
- RMB City Opera, Stage Performance, Director & Script: Cao Fei / Commissioned by Arthub Asia, Produced by RMB City, Supported by DEPART Foundation, Curators: Davide Quadrio and Defne Ayas, 2009
RMB City: Selected Exhibitions
- Nov 5-Dec 11, 2010, "RMB City", A Space Gallery + Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival, Toronto, Canada
- Oct 30, 2010-jan 09, 2011, "Future Generation Art Prize", PinchukArtCentre, Kiev, Ukraine
- Oct 14, 2010-Jan 9, 2011, "Cao Fei: RMB City", Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA
- Oct 14-17, 2010, "Cao Fei: Room 608", Frieze Art Fair 2010, London, UK
- Sep 25-Dec 12, 2010, The 29th Bienal de São Paulo 'There is always a cup of sea to sail in’, São Paulo, Brazil
- June 16–20, 2010, Art 41 Basel, Basel, Switzerland
- May 12–Aug 1 2010, 17th Biennale of Sydney. 'The Beauty of Distance: Songs of Survival in a Precarious Age', Sydney
- Mar 28-May 30, 2010, "Timelapse", CentrePasquArt, Biel, Switzerland
- Feb 13-May 16, 2010, "Cao Fei: Utopia", The Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Dunedin, New Zealand
- Feb 12-Apr 28, 2010, "Contemplating the Void", Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
- Jan 22-Apr 11, 2010, "Utopia Matters: From Brotherhoods to Bauhaus", Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin
- Dec 14 2009-Feb 7, 2010, "NO LAB on Tour", ACA Gallery, Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD), Atlanta
- Nov 25 - Dec 19, 2009, "Timelapse", The National Art Museum of China (NAMOC), Beijing
- Nov 17, 2009-Feb 28, 2010, "Breaking Forecast, 8 Key Figures of China’s New Generation of Artists", Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA), Beijing
- Nov 7, 2009, "RMB City Opera" (world premiere performance), Artissima 2009, Torino, Italy
- Oct 26-Dec 20, 2009, "Cao Fei" (solo exhibition), Shiseido Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
- Sep 10–Oct 10, 2009, "The Girl Effect", Lombard-Freid Projects, New York
- Oct 2, 2009-Jan 9, 2010, "Dress Codes: The 3rd ICP Triennial of Photography and Video", International Center of Photography, New York
- Jun 10–14, 2009, Art 40 Basel, Switzerland
- May 2-Jun 27, "Cao Fei: Utopia", Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, Australia.
- May 22 - Aug 9 2009, "Louis Vuitton: A Passion for Creation", Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong
- Apr 2009, "Alternate Realities", Spencer Museum of Art, Lawrence, Kansas, USA
- Mar 3, 2009 - Sep 6, 2009, H BOX, Orange County Museum of Art (OCMA), Newport Beach, USA
- Mar - Dec 2009, Reinstallation: "Cao Fei: RMB City", Serpentine Gallery, London
- Feb 13-21, 2009, ‘Performatik 09’, Kaaitheatre Festival, Brussels, Belgium
- Aug 30 - Oct 25, 2009, Utopics: 11th Swiss Sculpture Exhibition, Bienne/Biel Switzerland
SL Events in RMB City
- June 13, 2010 "Cyber Nude: Naked Idol in RMB City"
RMB City is holding a Naked Contest in SL. On June 13, 2010 (8pm SLT) come naked. Naked could be anything! Undressed or overexposed. Highly costumed or almost invisible.
The winner wins 30000 L$
Judging panel: Hamlet Au, Rodion Resistance & China Tracy
‘Naked Idol’ is a statement of freedom. We want you to:
• UNDRESS YOUR IMAGINATION • SET YOUR AVATAR FREE • COME NAKED THE WAY YOU FEEL YOU ARE
- Join the “Naked Idol” Second Life group!
- Come to People’s Park (RMB City 3 105, 129, 22 (Mature)) on June 13, 2010, 8pm SLT.
- After assembling in People’s Park, the Naked flash mob will travel to five sites in RMB City for a naked dance. Our panel of judges will select the best naked avatar.
- The fight for the ultimate Naked Idol will be held in People’s Park, where the selected avatars will be asked to perform their personal Naked Show
- May the best avatar win!
- As a hailing homage to our winner we will finally hold a SL naked tour outside RMB City
- May 31, 2010 "RMB City Code, Season 1: Wangguowei Wasp" - Prize Ceremony
1 am Second Life Time, People's Park (RMB City 3 102, 11, 22)
Have you disentangled the RMB City Code? Or are you still wondering where Wangguowei Wasp is? Whether you’re desperate for answers, or simply want to collect your free gift, join us for a special Prize Ceremony on May 31 at 1 am SLT, in People’s Park. Rumor has it that the elusive Wangguowei himself may drop in........
- March 29, 2010, "RMB City Code, Season 1: WangGuowei Wasp", a Second Life game:
In 1927, the poet Wang Guowei threw himself into the murmuring waters of Beijing’s Kunming Lake, never to be seen again in the first world.
Now, almost a century later, a rumor is afoot: was that Wang Guo Wei’s avatar that was recently spotted in Second Life? Yes, “Wangguowei Wasp” was seen in RMB City, only to swiftly vanish once again, leaving a trail of clues in his wake.
Beginning on March 29, 2010, and for one month thereafter, you can become a Second Life detective and help to solve the mystery of his latest disappearance. This compelling mission will involve exploring the most secluded back alleys of the island and interacting with the most mysterious characters in all of RMB City. A curious eye and open-minded heart will help you to unearth Wuang Guowei’s secret. At the end of the game, the most intrepid explorers will be awarded with an unexpected prize.
If your mission has not been completed yet, you may find some answers here…Listen carefully: the City is showing you the right path..
- RMB City REWARD. Come to RMB City, to look for a missing poet. His name is Wangguowei Wasp. They say it’s the famous poet, Wang Guo Wei, reborn as a Second Life avatar. You may vaguely remember that you have read this poet’s work, that some of the phrases in his poetry could make your heart jump. Because you want to take the responsibility to find this missing life, you have decided to accept this mission. To search for him, please continue in RMB City to find the clues.
- RMB City REWARD: All of the little hotels have grand names. The China Hotel is no exception.
- RMB City REWARD: When the hotel owner looks at you with naïve and innocent eyes, you will know that you have found the right place. Usually, in these types of places in the city – a place that people might see in the daylight as decrepit or filthy – usually is a very valuable clue. According to our friend M, the missing poet lived for a long time in these slums.
- JEROME: I have never met him, but there is good wine here, so maybe he has drunk here.
- RMB City Reward: Congratulations, you have gotten the right code. Please continue to search in RMB City for the next clue. We heard Master Q is an eager helper and very trustworthy, she lives nearby. It is not strange that in Chinese folklore, the Feng Shui Master always appears on the horizon in desperate times.
- Master Q: My eyes change from red to blue; my eyes are fire. Water and fire harmonize each other, and in the Second Life, I can see that all sectors of life become broken pieces when passed down generation by generation. These vague and unclear matters repeat themselves; they spread in RMB City like toys, or as if they are lining up to wait for the magical gates to open.
- RMB City Reward: Congratulations, you have cracked the code accurately. Please continue in RMB City to look for the next clue. Master Q has indirectly shown you the way, the direction of the water. Go to the abundant water network of RMB City to look for it, if you’re lucky, you will find the “Yu Gong”.
- RMB City REWARD: Congratulations, you have cracked the code accurately. Please continue in RMB City to look for the next clue. This painting scroll is “Gazing at the Mountain on the Riverbank”, by Ni Zan, 1363. It depicts Ni Zan’s feelings as he says goodbye to his friends, taking his boat onto the river and gazing back at the mountain. The saying goes, that in the most difficult times, Ni Zan decided to sell everything he had, take the boat, and sail out onto Tai Lake, initiating his floating hermit life. Being a hermit was Wang Guo Wei’s dream in the first life, could it also be that he’s become a hermit in RMB City?
- RMB City Reward: Sorry, your search took a wrong turn. Time in RMB City is ‘condensed’, therefore you have to grab at the cracks in time, so that you may encounter people from different lifetimes. All of these people have a possible connection to the poet.
- RMB YuGong – Congratulations, you have found the LANDMARK, continue to follow the stream to look for the next clue.
- China Tracy: Sorry, I can’t tell you more, because this Second Life has no memory. This city continues to stretch, there is no end. Everything flows far, far away….
- RMB Depression Bottle: No water here, only the image of the water.
- RMB Happy Bottle: RMB City is created with transparency and imagination. It is very possible it doesn’t exist, and even though it exists now, it might not exist in the future. It ends after our visit ends, it starts again upon our return. Repeatedly it goes in and out of life, in the end, we all share the whole world.
- RMB City Reward: Congratulations, you’ve gained the “People’s Card of Health”. Please continue to look for the next clue, as the massage beauty has left a word for you: In this city, people come and go, and it’s hard to find the ideal husband!
- RMB City: Perhapa WangguoweiWasp comes to this ‘pleasure parlor’ just to feel the sadness of happiness in a swift exchange.
- RMB City Reward: This poem, titled “Water Dragon Song”, was composed in Wang Guo Wei’s first life, around 1907.
- RMB City REWARD: To compose poetry on the wall is a form of expression that Chinese literati will never tire of.
- RMB City REWARD: In this poem, on one hand, the poetry’s emphasis is on the “imagery of the water”, the misty rain on the pond, spring stream and the tears of the departing people. On the other hand, in this phrase, he also hinted at the “earth” and its relationship with water, (alike they drift, but its preferable to be stable earth, rather than to be loose, flowing, moving water) – starting with the body of water, extending to its opposition to the earth, all while hinting that we will ultimately turn toward dust.
- RMB City REWARD: Sorry, your mission has misidentified the matter, please continue to search in RMB City.
- RMB City REWARD: Sorry, you have misidentified the matter, There is a poem that will give you direction.
- RMB City REWARD: Congratulations, you have received LM, this city is full of the life of Avatars, because people gather air gradually, then maybe as this city gradually gathers more temperature, it will have more of a human atmosphere.
- RMB City REWARD: Is it that the poet sits by the only dining table, facing the empty chair and the beautiful dishes, but with no one to toast?
- Marx: I found real happiness in Second Life, the realization of the happiness of personal value and labor. I always believe: the New World will be reborn constantly, just as the Old WOrld will die constantly.
- Red Detachment of Women: In my Second Life, I find my most worship-worthy revolutionary companion.
- Marx: I’m sorry, your mission has misidentified the matter. For instance, if I say that Wang Guo Wei’s first life was in the era of revolution, and suicide was his inevitable destiny, then the confused poet Wangguowei Wasp is exactly the sort of “post-revolution anxiety” of this romantic city.
- Marx: The whole city is filled with those extraordinary “post-revolution anxieties” – it is an indescribable contemporary daily atmosphere – where have the revolutionary heroes gone?
- RMB Psalm: Sorry, your mission has misidentified the matter. In Second Life, the revolutionaries still long for revolution, the depressed people are still sunk in despair. The memorial still exists, but the ghost of the memory has died.
- RMB Psalm: In these young ruins, are there undying lovers in the broken airplane, flying the red flag, rusting public squares, broken streets, singing his poems? If you bring those poems amongst the mountains, water, grass, and trees, maybe you will find the spirit of the poet.
- RMB City Reward: Congratulations you have found Wang Guo Wei ‘s Hat, please wait for the date of award ceremony. In Second Life, life and death blur together, we have the opportunity to experience everything.
- RMB City REWARD: Congratulations you have found Wang Guo Wei’s calligraphy brush. Please wait for the date of the awards ceremony. Whether it is in the first or second life, we hope to find a stable life and an established destiny.
- RMB City REWARD: Congratulations, you have found the ghost spirit of Wang Guowei Wasp, please wait for the date of the award ceremony. The low singing of the poet floats through the ears: “Standing by the rail, mountain and river do not end, it is easy to depart, but harder to reunite. Running water, dropping flower petals, spring has gone, heaven is on earth.
Blossom without shows to other, then how would wither after rain. Long peaceful calm day, stood a slight while in the corridor, rise blurred lingering affection. Gentle rain falls into the pool, setting sun shining on the compound, with heavily door shuttered. All about to stop, where the cloth slide over, just there, all for the wind. Story of flowers are waning to you, even more unnecessary to pursue, all branches all been covered by whitish snow. Mention about people only for harmonious, sadness and happiness in the world are all fall into pieces. As to fly away, rather to gather into dust, not flow away by the river. With fear of such limpid warmly Spring River, are stored the tears from whom already leave.
- July 14, 2008, RMB City Groundbreaking
- September 2008, "Play with Your Triennale"
- November 2008, "NO LAB in RMB City"
- November 2008, "Love Letters To Avatars" by Mian Mian (SL: MianMian Sorbet)
- December 2008, "Dream Umbrellas" by Man Michinaga, Gazira Babeli and Second Front
- January 2009, Institution Opening: UCCA in RMB City
- January 9 (SL time)-January 10, 2009, RMB City Grand Opening
- January 2009, "Master Q's Guide to Virtual Feng Shui" by Huang He (SL: queenshoe Voom)
- January 11, 2009, China Tracy on Treet.tv's "Tonight Live"
- January 2009, RMB City's First Mayor Ulli Sigg (SL: UliSigg Cisse)
- March 20, 2009, Interview Marathon at Serpentine Gallery
- April 2009, RMB City's Second Mayor Alan Lau (SL: AlanLau Nirvana)
- May 2009, "People's Limbo in RMB City"
- August 2009, RMB City's Third Mayor Jerome Sans (SL: SuperConcierge Cristole)
- August 2009, "Yak Horn: RMB City Guggenheim by Cao Fei (SL: China Tracy)
- August 2009, "Master Q's Medium Office" by Huang He (SL: queenshoe Voom)
- August 2009, "Wang Kuo-wei" by Hu Fang (SL: HuFang Scribe)
- August 25, 2009, "Never Real Sound" by Yan Jun (SL: Vacation Mint)
- August 28, 2009, "Revolutionary Pleasure Area" by Cao Fei (SL: China Tracy)
- August 28, 2009, "Second Life Tremors" by Neville Mars (SL: MARS01 Sheryffe)
- September 2009, "Fake Mountain" by jiang Jun (SL: JiangJun aboma)
- September 13, 2009, "New World Gala" by James Au (SL: Hamlet Au) + "Montage RMB City" by Trace Sanderson (SL: Lainy Voom)
- January 10, 2010, RMB City's Fourth Mayor Erica Dubach (SL: E3A Digital)
- January 10, 2010, RMB City's One Year's Anniversary
Virtual institution- and individual collector-“managed” buildings inside RMB City will hold regularly changing exhibitions and events open to all Second Life users.
Recent RMB City Media Coverage and Publications
- "'RMB City Opera' reflects a changing China", Alice Thorson, The Kansas City Star (online), March 5, 2011
- "Kunst 2.0", Daniel Völzke, Monopol (Germany), February 2011
- "A journey into the shape-shifting universe of Chinese artist Cao Fei", Vaughan, R.M., The Globe and Mail (online), November 12, 2010
- "China - living in between Real and Unreal", turbulence.org, October 31, 2010
- "Don't miss: 'RMB City'", San Francisco Chronicle (online), October 14, 2010
- "Cao Fei's Virtual Theater of Real Events", Hugo Boss Art Prize 2010 Catalogue, 2010, pp. 21–25
- Visible, a project by Cittadellarte-Fondazione Pistoletto and Fondazione Zegna, edited by Angelika Burtscher and Judith Wielander, Sternberg Press, 2010, pp. 189–197
- "Group Video Installation Created for the United Nations Pavillion at World Expo 2010", artdaily (online), July 28, 2010
- "Live Nude Avatars! Highlights from Cao Fei's Interactive Exploration of Avatar Identity, Self Construction, Bare Butts", Au, James, New World Notes (online), June 15, 2010
- "Wacky, Sexy and Fun: The RMB City "Naked Idol" Contest", Avatrian (online), June 14, 2010
- "Photoshifting: Art Practice, Camera Phones and Social Media", Hjorth, Larissa, ACP Photofile, Issue 89, April 2010
- "Liminality: A Mixed Reality Exhibition of Second Life Art", Kinkley, Jonathan, Time Out (online, New York), April 9, 2010
- "China Art Show", Dou Zi, Elle (China), March 2010, pp. 80–4
- "Art seen: The fine line between fact and fiction", James Dignan, Otago Daily Times (online, New Zealand), March 2010
- "Take This Museum and Shape It", Smith Roberta, The New York Times, February 19, 2010
- "Cao Fei: RMB City", Hoare, Ben, The Journal (Edinburgh's Student Newspaper) (online), February 3, 2010
- “Cao Fei vs. China Tracy”, Liu Wen Wen, Art and Design (China), January 2010,
- “Cao Fei: The Next Matthew Barney”, Ying Ding, Vogue (China), January 2010,
- “Confessioni di un Avatar”, Cristiana Campanini, ARTE (Italy), January 2010
- “Il Castello Errante di Cao Fei”, Massimiliano Gioni, WIRED (Italian Edition), January 2010
- “1st Anniversary of RMB City”, Art iT (online, Japan), Jan 6, 2010
- “Fantasy : Cao Fei”, on Art 21: Art in the Twenty-First Century, Season 5, PBS, aired Oct 14, 2009
- “Make Room for Video, Performance and Paint”, Roberta Smith, The New York Times, Dec 31, 2009
- "Cao Fei: History and the future; East and West; community and isolation", Nicola Harvey, Frieze Issue 127 (and Frieze Magazine online), Nov-Dec, 2009
- “Cao Fei estrena un espectáculo con dos actors y sus avatares en Second Life” R. Bosco/ S. Caldana, El Pais (Spain), Nov 19, 2009
- “Fashions of China Tracy” image, Goings On About Town, The New Yorker, Oct 12, 2009
- “RMB City” cover image, Outlook Magazine (China), July 2009
- “H BOX Artists”, Christopher Smith, Los Angeles Times, Apr 12, 2009
- “Who is China Tracy?”, Modern Weekly (China), Mar 26, 2009
- “Store Review: The Shop in Beijing”, The New York Times, March 15, 2009
- “Cao Fei’s RMB City”, Jan Hauters, That’s Beijing, Feb 15, 2009
- “Art in the Shadow of Katrina: Touring Prospect New Orleans”, Hrag Vartanian, The Brooklyn Rail, February 2009
- “Virtual Realty”, Brian Dritcour, artforum.com (online) Jan 16, 2009
- "RMB City: Open Now" Art Asia Pacific, Special Issue, Dec 18, 2008, pp 5–6
- “Interview with Cao Fei” Sue Acret, DiAAAlogue, Newsletter of Asia Art Archive (online) Dec 16, 2008
- “Virtual Real Estate”, Madeleine O’Dea, Urbane (China), Nov 15, 2008
- “NO LAB, New Hope: Artists’ Rendition of Post-Katrina New Orleans Added to Second Life’s RMB City”, Wagner James Au, New World Notes (blog, online), Nov 4, 2008
- “Masterpieces of the Universe”, Natasha Degen, Financial Times, Oct 11, 2008
- “Yokohama Triennale 2008: Cao Fei”, Rebecca Milner, Tokyo Art Beat, Oct 1, 2008
- “Here comes Metaverse: A New Existential Manifesto”, Zafka, Urban China, Sep 10, 2008
- “Like Life”, Eleanor Heartney, Art in America, May 1, 2008
- “The Avatar Bazaar”, R.C. Baker, The Village Voice, Apr 1, 2008
- “RMB City”, Karen Rosenberg, The New York Times, Mar 21, 2008
- “Flying Avatars Admire the Artwork,” Benjamin Genocchio, The New York Times, March 12, 2008
- “The Virtual Muse and her Taxman,” Chin-Chin Yap, Art Asia Pacific, March 2008
- “Virtual Vision of an Eastern City”, Isolde Flamand, The AvaStar, Feb 29, 2008
- “Avatars and Antiheroes. A Guide to Contemporary Chinese Artists.” Claudia Albertini. Kodansha International. Feb 2008.
- “10th Istanbul Biennial: Staging a Communication Utopia”, Hilary Tsui, Yishu, Jan 20, 2008
- “Cao Fei sets a record price for virtual art?” Nadim Samman, The Art Newspaper, Dec 7 2007
RMB City Publications
- "People's Monthly 01 Issue", ed. RMB City, March 2008
- “Cao Fei/China Tracy: RMB City Catalogue”, ed. Cao Fei & Hu Fang, Vitamin Creative Space, Feb. 2008.