Is the future of art in the metaverse?
Unveiling the artistic visions of Cao Fei and LuYang. The two contemporary artists share their perspectives on how the metaverse is influencing the world of art.
The internet as a platform for artistic expression: in the realm of contemporary art, Cao Fei and LuYang have emerged as pioneers when it comes to pushing the boundaries of creative exploration and engaging with the digital age. Motivated by a profound fascination with forms of digital art, they have navigated the ever-evolving landscapes of technology, virtual reality and immersive experiences.
Through their exploration of virtual worlds, gaming cultures and digital communities, Cao Fei and LuYang examine the profound impact of the digital world on our collective imagination, social interactions and personal identities.
Deutsche Bank and contemporary art
In the realm of contemporary art, Cao Fei and LuYang have emerged as pioneers when it comes to pushing the boundaries of creative exploration and engaging with the digital age. Cao Fei’s works have been part of the Deutsche Bank Collection since 2007. LuYang was named Deutsche Bank "Artist of the Year" in 2022.
As artists, how are you using the metaverse to explore new artistic concepts and narratives?
Cao Fei: The metaverse is a place I have lived in. Since creating my digital avatar China Tracy, I have been experiencing the changes and evolvement of digital space in the past decades. My aim is not to use the digital space to achieve a goal or to prove a point; I’m interested in creating space and sharing experiences.
How does your art address the potential issues of identity, representation and diversity within the metaverse?
LuYang: I believe having a virtual identity is a great thing; you can really feel the benefits, for example when playing online games. People can choose their preferred avatars and identities in the virtual world. Since 2010, all the characters in my works have been genderless, which means gender identity is not something that needs to be discussed in my art. This basic setting enables me to create the works I love.
Cao Fei: My work is a representation of my experience and perspectives. I don’t really have an agenda when addressing these issues. When it comes to my works, my avatars – previously China Tracy and, more recently, Oz – are very different aesthetically. China Tracy is an active explorer and embodies a spirit of optimism. Oz, as a gender fluid hybridity of biological body and machine, embodies a serene and introspective demeanour as it gazes upon the virtual world. I think for me as an artist, it’s more important to create space rather than giving conclusion.
Since 2010, all the characters in my works have been genderless, which means gender identity is not something that needs to be discussed in my art.
How do you strike the balance between preserving the uniqueness and authenticity of physical art experiences while exploring the vast possibilities that the metaverse offers?
Cao Fei: The boundary between the physical and the virtual is increasingly blurred and entangled. Rather than viewing them as separate entities, they are often integrated. And it allows for a multi-dimensional and immersive encounter, where the boundaries between the real and the virtual are intertwined. Like my exhibition “Duotopia” in Berlin, the title “duo” means “many” in Mandarin, as there are multiple spaces and narratives.
LuYang: My own creative process is not influenced by external concepts and I don't see the metaverse as a utopia. People's experiences within the metaverse are still based on human concepts, and it would likely operate in a similar manner to the physical world. In the metaverse, individuals may amplify their desires and needs, potentially revealing a more uninhibited side of themselves.
The boundary between the physical and the virtual is increasingly blurred and entangled.
How can the metaverse provide a platform for collaborative and multidisciplinary artistic practices?
Cao Fei: I have been working with and studying digital technologies and mediums for a long time, and collaboration has come naturally. In RMB City, I had many friends participate in the city building project. In the current project Duotopia, I worked with a Chinese metaverse platform to create digital architectural and urban spaces.
Do you think the metaverse has the potential to democratise the art world, allowing for broader participation and access to art?
LuYang: The internet has certainly made the art world more democratic, and I have benefited from it. However, when it comes to the metaverse, perhaps we need to wait for this concept to continue to evolve? Like any new and exciting thing, there tends to be a phase of speculation and hype. Even before the concept of the metaverse became popular, I had already started creating works using my own digital identity. Whether the metaverse exists or not, I create my works according to my own ideas.
About Cao Fei and LuYang
Cao Fei is a prominent Chinese artist known for her innovative works in video, installation, and new media art. Exploring the intersections of technology, society, and identity, she creates immersive experiences that challenge conventional realities. Her notable project "RMB City" constructed a virtual metropolis in Second Life that she described as “an online art community in the virtual world”. Cao Fei has exhibited worldwide, including at the Venice Biennale and the Guggenheim Museum, New York. Her unique innovative approach and profound insights, always reflecting on China's social and economic complexities, make her a leading voice in contemporary art. Cao Fei’s works have been part of the Deutsche Bank Collection since 2007 and a whole floor in the bank’s Head Office in Frankfurt is devoted to her artistic practice.
LuYang is a pioneering Chinese artist known for his boundary-pushing works in video, performance, and digital art. His artistic production includes 3D animated films, video game installations, holograms, graphic works, and virtual reality projects. Blending ancient traditions with the latest technology, he creates a posthuman metaverse in which identities are fluid. LuYang's captivating artworks provoke contemplation about the human experience in today’s world. His work has been exhibited globally, including at the Venice Biennale and the Centre Pompidou, Paris. LuYang created the exhibition “DOKU Experience Center”, which after its premiere at Deutsche Bank’s PalaisPopulaire in Berlin will be on view in Milan this autumn. LuYang was named Deutsche Bank "Artist of the Year" in 2022.
… has been Head of Communications & CSR for Deutsche Bank in France for 15 years. He is highly intrigued by the metaverse, driven by a deep curiosity to explore its transformative potential, while maintaining an objective stance and withholding final judgment on its full implications.
Digital Disruption | Opinion
Digital Disruption | Opinion
Inclusivity must be at the forefront of metaverse development “Inclusivity must be at the forefront of metaverse development”
The metaverse represents a paradigm shift in how we interact with digital content and each other, says Liz Hyman, CEO of the XR Association, .
Digital Disruption | Video Story
How the metaverse could boost Manchester United’s revenues How the metaverse could boost Manchester United’s revenues
Sabih Behzad, Deutsche Bank’s Head of Digital Assets & Currencies Transformation, explains how his football team could make money in the metaverse.