CAO Fei, born in 1978 in Guangzhou, one of the most internationally famed Chinese contemporary artists, is among the earliest renowned Creative Commoner artists in China. From year 2000, she started to gain a significant position by a series of exquisite works including San Yuan Li Project, Cosplayers, HiP Hop Guangzhou, Hip Hop Fukuoka, Hip Hop New York, PRD Anti-Heroes, Father and Whose Utopia. From 2007 she started to create I. Mirror and RMB City based on Second Life, an online 3D virtual world. Those works have received international recognition, being praised as epics describing the digital era.

CC China Mainland interviewed Cao Fei, for her own world of art, her stories with CC and her ideas towards art in a digital era.

CCQ: How is your first contact with CC, and from when you started using CC licenses?

CAO: In 2007, I spent half a year playing the online 3D virtual world Second Life. There I met Robin Linden from Linden Lab(which is the designer and operator of Second Life), who is the first one told me about CC. Then later in the middle of June it was also her who recommended me to participate in the CC international conference of the year in Croatia.

The first time that I license my work under Creative Commons is for I, Mirror, which was presented in Venice Biennial – International Art Exhibition in June, 2007.



CCQ: What is your opinion of CC’s impact in the distribution of artworks? Do you think porting CC will help in the development of Chinese contemporary art(new media art)?

CAO: Firstly, artists using CC licenses in China are not the majority. Because the principle of copyright for most of artworks is to prevent duplicating, to limit the amount of copies. And many artists are not having the awareness of openness in distribution and in copyright. First they don’t rely on the internet, for they primarily use traditional means likes exhibitions; the second is that they have no idea of CC or they have not yet benefited from CC, and they have not yet realized the effect that CC licenses may have in publicizing their works.

CCQ: You have released CC-licensed works in albums, blog, videos and other forms. Do you have a standard or some means to decide on which kind of works to be licensed under Creative Commons?

CAO: For normal publications and videos I usually choose BY-NC-ND; and for video publications I would select BY-NC-SA.

A Mirage

CCQ: Did CC licenses help in the distribution of your works?

CAO: Actually I didn’t feel if I really got some big help since I started using CC. But still I choose it because I want to be bound to the spirit of share. I want to raise the awareness of open copyright in the public, who are used to accept the traditional copyright protections. It will help in the future, for us to get a more loosely comfortable atmosphere in creations and communications. And I believe that it will be a process from porting CC to a universal recognition and broader usage.

CCQ: When you’re selecting CC licenses for your creations in Second Life, do you have any different feeling than licensing your real-world albums?

CAO: In the virtual world, your creations will gain much better acceptance if their copyright are very open. Like they can modified again and again, every time providing more ideas for other authors, users and players. It’s a dynamic and positive process of interdependent. When myself find such kind of stuff, I will be more than happy to share them with my friends. If we are about to create a new virtual object, these opened stuff will become the best choice of elements or references. And after I licensed my real-world album with Creative Commons, I have witnessed people forward its copies to each other, or upload a scan copy free for viewing. For that I think it’s an opportunity for more people to share the ideas and artistic achievements, providing proper and legal means in terms of copyright. However, the population of paper media readers are limited and are shrinking. Only opening the barriers of copyright can bring a creation to a positive circle of interactive development.

CCQ: Many of your works are very early to employ new pop elements like Cosplay and Second Life. Do you think CC’s concept of share and remix somehow associates to those of your works?

CAO: Remix is a very important key word in post-modern authoring. Even movie and music are constantly developing their Remix. For most of my past works, I just remix in the creative ideas: borrowing, appropriation, sampling, stitching, composition and parody. For example, remix of street people in Hip Hop, remix of real identity and role-playing, remix of reality and virtual world in Second Life. I believe that people spiritually breaking boundaries, opening mind in the art world or pursuing of multi-culture integrations, are actually the effort of making “free expressions”. And therefore, the sharing spirit of CC just provided the practical interpretation and working scheme for these creativities.


CCQ: What is your opinion towards the relationship between limitation of copy in artistic collections, and free copy with some-right-reserved as promoted by CC?

CAO: “Limitation” is an approach intended to defend the value of artworks, however, being over-protected will eventually limit the distribution of artworks, but completely opening copyright will do harm to the value of artists’ efforts. And how to find a balance between limitation, interest and distribution? I believe that the some-rights-reserved of CC is capable of solving such problems. The customizing selections can protect the author and his work, and at the same time show an openness.

CCQ: Did you have any questions or confusions when you are using CC?

CAO: There has been someone questioning me in my choice of NC license in some potentially commercial works. I made some study until I realized that NC is not that the author is not supposed to use his work commercially; the author is entitled the right of commercial use and it is the others who are not supposed to make commercial use of these works that attributed to the author. Therefore this license is protecting the interest of artists, rather than setting restrictions. Indeed we need to study these licenses, or we’ll be confused or have misunderstandings in the open value of CC.


CCQ: How is the progress of the RMB City project? And what will be your plans for next?

CAO: On January 10 of 2009 we finished the prophase of RMB City and we opened it completely. There’re many tourist coming to make photographs, and upload these pictures on their blogs or even publish them as their own works. We don’t have any problems for this, because a city is only sustainable when it is opened, tolerant and shared. To some extent, the city belongs to the public once it was found. Now we have started to run a Mayor program for RMB City, we appoint a new honored mayor every three month to be the leader of the city. We will start a “Virtual Life Flow” project in its urban village, to try to discover the very lifestyle of this city and to promote a new value for virtual life. This will include a virtual drama or movie in the year-end or next year.

(All images above are Ms. Cao Fei’s work, and are licensed under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 2.5 China Mainland)