Viewing Cao Fei’s newest video work, La Town, is an experience that consists of equal parts enchantment and confusion. Cao’s film draws the viewer into a dark, seedy and crumbling town: La Town. In La Town Cao highlights both the mundanity and vice of contemporary society through the creation of an obviously fake, alternate world modeled on our own.
Bright, artificial colors, and the sort of omnipresent night and severe lighting one might find in a neo-noir film characterize the film. Roughly hewn, yet vividly human wax dolls and plastic buildings act as substitutes for real actors and locations. Intense music and vague voiceover narration enhances the films dark mood. Whispered voices discuss La Town’s dark fate in broken, nebulous phrases, only ever half-informing the viewer of La Town’s fate and history
At the beginning of La Town the words “this simulacrum remains unsurpassed in its invocation of the real” flicker across the screen. With this, Cao acknowledges the unreality of La Town, while affirming its credibility as a stand in for reality. Though it may be composed of no more than dolls and plastic toys, Cao asserts La Town’s validity as a representation of reality. By distilling the experience of contemporary society and transposing it onto an obviously unreal realm, she challenges the viewer to question similarities between La Town and the real world.
Image Source: http://www.lombardfreid.com/cao-fei/