Machas welcomes New Media artist Cao Yuxi

From his monumental show in Shenzhen where the city’s skyline became a canvas, to the hypnotic Dimensional Sampling audiovisual series, Cao Yuxi’s work never fails to “wow” the audience with immersive experiences which often take the form of monumental installations. “Scale really talks to the audience”, he explains. “Architecture inspired me to take advantage of huge settings to create more impact and increase the feeling of immersiveness”.

Originally from China, Cao Yuxi’s practice developed over the years to form an impressive body of work spanning interactive art, audiovisual performance and immersive spatial design.

“What first got me into technology and New Media art was gaming”, Cao recognises. “While studying in art school, my interest shifted from video games’ designs to something bigger. I wanted to explore new forms, make projections on buildings, shape screens into digital sculptures - and not solely think within a 16x9 canvas”, he recalls. “China didn’t have a New Media scene back then, but international artists worldwide began to share New Media projects online. People like 1024 Architecture and Ryoji Ikeda opened my world and set my path to create content as an art object, and not just exclusively for decorative purposes.”

Indeed, Cao’s work challenges the viewers to reflect on the multifaceted aspects of the digital age. “I often embed meaning in my art, such as critical thinking or reflections about the state we’re living in - whether it is a social, political or cultural context - like in the Vast Land piece. But sometimes I just feel like going with it and then it’s like asking a musician “What were you thinking when you made that song?” They’d probably answer that they drank too much vodka [laughs]”

Through his technology-based oeuvre, Cao explores the relationship between people, space and context. “Interactive Art, for me, is something that the audience cannot avoid engaging with. This is why I am often using the human silhouette and the viewer’s position in space: it’s the most intuitive interaction possible. No info needed, just go in there, and you’re part of it. No need to instruct the viewers like “ok, press this button, then this button to go here.” No, that’s video gaming”.

His installation at Beijing Minsheng Art Museum (which uses a large floor-to-ceiling curved LED screen) enables people to interact with the piece by walking on it, triggering fascinating changes in the artwork’s colourful visuals. “Interactivity is something that people want - before interactive Art, you weren’t allowed to go to a museum and draw on Pollock!” [laugh]

When it comes to creation, Cao explains: “We shouldn’t be thinking of each piece as a one-off, but as an ever-evolving, reproducible form”. A good example of this approach in Cao’s practice is Dimensional Sampling, a piece that the artist has developed in collaboration with Hong Kong-based composer Lawrence Liu and sparks reflection on the QR code technology which is omnipresent in China. “Dimensional Sampling was serialised into different formats: there’s a performance version for live events, that can be executed as a single chapter or as a whole, we have a rendered version for installation where our presence is not required, there’s also the Shenzhen city skyline live show, which commissioned by the Shenzhen city government and involved 41 buildings. There is going to be new Dimensional Sampling version released in Amsterdam - it was meant to be launched in August, but due to coronavirus the date is TBC at the moment.”

Cao’s creative process is based on three pillars: “first, learning. I’m always learning new technologies and new techniques. Secondly, I analyse the current context we live in, and lastly, I look at what other artists are doing. If I want to generate ideas organically, I need to nurture these three aspects constantly. That’s how I feel I fill my life with richness.”

For an artist who draws inspiration from the current context and is used to work with scale, the lockdown presented an interesting moment in time. “As an artist who works with experiential pieces, creating a piece for online fruition is an opportunity to see how VR and reality can not just coexist, but merge, creating a mixed reality. I created a new Dimensional Sampling performing piece for Instagram during lockdown, and it was super easy, it didn’t have any of the challenges its real-life counterpart had. Technology plays a key role, but what’s really important is how the content can take advantage of technology.” 

After graduating from the prestigious China Central Academy of Fine Art in Beijing and the School of Visual Arts in New York, and having his work exhibited in museums and galleries around the world, Cao defines himself as “an idealist artist, trying to redeem his pledge under the social pragmatism pressure”. Cao explains: “I have to be quite pragmatic in order to make my practice sustainable. I do have my own idealism, but I use a pragmatic approach to maintain it because if you’re starving, your mind becomes fragile and weaker.”

At the same time, as an Asian artist in the US, Cao witnesses: “Many minority artists experience an uneven playing field. I am aware that changing a system that is so consolidated is quite difficult, but that made me realise that America (and Europe as well) is not the idyllic place I thought it was when I left China”. He concludes: “I had to find ways to stay strong as a content creator. Not only I’ve learnt to not allow the system to affect the sense of what I do, but also to work together to achieve objectives effectively.”

Why choose Machas? “I was looking for a partnership that could present and support my work. I like Machas’ vision: I was looking for agents that really have a global perspective, able to work with more than a single market - and I found out Machas pretty global and differentiated.”

See Cao Yuxi’s portfolio here.


Similar Posts