Following the contributions by Jeff Koons and John Baldessari, Cao Fei (b. 1978) is the youngest and first Chinese artist ever to create a BMW Art Car. By employing augmented and virtual reality, the internationally acclaimed Chinese multimedia artist addresses the future of mobility such as autonomous driving, airborne cars and digitalization. In the presence of Dr Ian Robertson, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, and hundreds of invited guests, the reveal of BMW Art Car #18 was celebrated at the Minsheng Art Museum in Beijing on May 31.
Cao Fei’s work is a reflection on the speed of change in China, on tradition and future. With her BMW Art Car project, she delves into a trajectory spanning thousands of years, paying tribute to Asia’s ancient spiritual wisdom as it swiftly spreads out into the third millennium. The multimedia artist approached the BMW Art Car in a way typical for her artistic practice, building a parallel universe. The body of work consists of three different components: a video focusing on a time traveling spiritual practitioner, augmented reality features picturing colorful light particles, accessible via a dedicated app (App Store: keyword “BMW Art Car #18”), and the BMW M6 GT3 racecar in its original carbon black. Paying tribute to the carbon fiber structure of the racecar chassis, Cao Fei’s holistic use of a non-reflective black incorporates the car into the possibilities of the digital world.
Within this concept, Cao Fei’s implementation of video art as well as augmented reality creates an environment of which the M6 GT3 is an essential part. In her video work, the practitioner executes spiritual movements, which echo in colorful streams of light. When the app is used within the premises of the car, these light swishes become an AR installation floating above and around the BMW M6 GT3 – involving the spectator as an interactive agent of participation. This narrative reflects on a traditional spiritual ceremony very common throughout Asia in which new objects such as automobiles are being blessed, in this case wishing good luck to car and driver. On a broader level, the light elements mirror what the eyes cannot see and the mind cannot picture.
During the course of over three years following her announcement, Cao Fei took part in a racing experience with female race driver Cyndie Allemann in Switzerland in 2015. During manifold visits to headquarters, she worked closely with BMW Group’s engineers, designers, and digital specialists. For her research, the artist also went on an extended BMW plant visit to Tiexi.