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Still from Cao Fei’s Nova, 2019.
Still from Cao Fei’s Nova, 2019.

Cao Fei Wins 2021 Deutsche Börse Prize

Guangzhou-born, Beijing-based artist Cao Fei, whose work across media including film, photography, digital media, and sculpture explores the impact of technology on modern society, has won the prestigious $43,000 Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation prize for her show “Blueprints.” The solo exhibition, the artist’s first in the UK, opened at London’s Serpentine in 2020, ahead of the Covid-19 crisis, and featured works including the 2018 video Asia One, about the last two remaining humans in an automated world, and the 2019 video Nova, which the artist has described as being about a “father-son relationship that spans history and spacetime.” Also featured was one of Cao’s best-known works, Whose Utopia, 2006, depicting the imagined lives of workers in a lightbulb factory.

Anna-Marie Beckmann, director of the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation, characterized Cao’s work, which frequently yokes apocalyptic themes to deadpan humor and surrealism, as offering a “uniquely poetic dystopia that echoes the human condition today,” adding, “She captures the particular isolation and alienation experienced in our increasingly digital age through a distinctive and seductive visual language that speaks both through and about images and their place in the world today.”

“Although she speaks from a position rooted in Chinese history, she addresses universally resonant themes in her immaculately crafted narratives: The importance and fragility of human connection, the power of love, the ethics of technology, and existential malaise,” said Brett Rogers, Deutsche Börse jury chair and director of the Photographer’s Gallery in London.

Cao’s work will remain on display at the Photographer’s Gallery alongside that of the three other artists shortlisted for the prize—Poulomi Basu, Alejandro Cartagena, and Zineb Sedira—through September 26.

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