Cao Fei’s Same Old, Brand New
Same Old, Brand New is the labor of love of Chinese multimedia artist Cao Fei. It was a massive video installation that featured a multitude of different symbols, moving pictures and images, and logos from well-liked video games such as Pac-Man and Tetris. At the time of the show, the images and symbols displayed had become integral elements of culture among the youth not only in Hong Kong but also in other parts of the world.
Shown on the 490-meter high building
The images were shown on the exterior of the 490-meter-high ICC, and they ran in five 10-minute intervals every night from March 13 to March 17, 2014. The installation was commissioned by Art Basel as part of a larger program that consisted of several shows that were more elaborate and detailed.
The light show was observable and visible from various parts of the city. Apart from the video game symbols and logos, the installation was also accompanied by the music of 1980s computer games. The music, which came from Hong Kong-based sound artist Dickson Dee, was synchronized alongside Cao Fei’s visual installation.
Why did Cao Fei create this work?
Cao Fei opted to combine a series of popular images and symbols alongside moving images on the full length of the towering building. The display was intended to create heightened visibility to evoke different interpretations from the audience. For Cao, this was an opportunity to transform collective memories of video games that were popular in the 1980s, turning them into reality. The purpose was largely to expose the dreams and aspirations of young people living in Hong Kong.
Cao Fei is no stranger to multimedia projects. This particular installation was a mixture of social commentary and a reference to surrealism. It was communicated to the audience in a documentary-style approach. The installations effectively managed to reflect and expose the rapid and chaotic changes that have continued to occur in our societies, particularly with the rise of technological innovations.
Escapism & disillusionment of the youth in China
Cao’s fascination with the escapism and disillusionment of the youth in China comes through the project. The artist carefully explored the boundaries that exist between reality and perception. At the time of the installation, technological development was at its height in China; the light show was a timely reflection on the rapid changes occurring in Chinese society. It also helped shed light on how the changes could affect the future dreams and goals of China’s youth.