Trevor Smith on Cao Fei: Transcript

Cao Fei makes machines behave like bodies and bodies behave like machines. In Shadow Life, she works with clockwork precision of virtuoso puppeteers. In Rumba, she makes robots dance.

It feels to me as it she’s making fun of the utopian ideal that if technology could free us from labor, we would all have a lot more time to play. For example, to clean the floor I used to have to vacuum or sweep. Now, a robot can do that while I check my Twitter feed.

When Cao Fei takes robotic vacuums off the floor and onto platforms in a gallery, their continuous movement accomplishes nothing and instead becomes an absurd dance—a Roomba rumba, if you will.

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