RMB City

Artist: Cao Fei (SL: China Tracy), China,

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RMB City — Online Urbanization A city dubbed RMB City is being built in Second Life by China Tracy. It’s a city that is a condensed incarnation of contemporary Chinese cities with most of their characteristics; a series of new Chinese fantasy realms that are highly self-contradictory, inter-permeative, pan-political, extremely entertaining, and laden with irony and suspicion. China’s current obsession with land development in all its intensity will be extended to Second Life. A rough hybrid of communism, socialism and capitalism, RMB City will be realized in a globalized digital sphere combining overabundant symbols of Chinese reality with cursory imaginings of the country’s future[...] RMB City Manifesto (RMB–to be ReMember) — The Castle of Crossed Destinies, Italo Calvino.

Two specters are hovering over a city of lightness — virtual specters. In the name of the Holy War against them, everything from the old world united — human beings, landscape, faith and prophecies, rules and wisdom. Now, it’s time for RMB City to make the declaration to the world about its view, its purpose and its intention. It’s time to manifest to people: this is a city that you can’t wipe out from your memory.

1. Us RMB

City is an adjective, a loose dream and some random coincidences. You wave to me in the pink crystal when I’m about to land on the softest of all earth, one foot in the virtual atmosphere, and one still remains on the cold, hard floor of my real life. Come run with me, you disturbed being. Those we desire are not far away, the city is going to tell us what to think and the different versions of our stories, in the past, the present, and the future.

2. Mirroring City

“It is a city made only of exceptions, exclusions, incongruities, contradictions.” — Marco Polo RMB City is not a city of magical mirror, it doesn’t restore the full present, nor does it recall our reminiscence of the past. It’s a mirror that partially reflects; we see where we were coming from, discover some of the “connections” that fill the pale zone between the real and the virtual, the clues of which get disturbed, enriched, and polished. New orders are born, so are new, strange wisdom. The sea above the city is reflected on the shattering white night; fire from the chimney pokes through the cloud, burning the flag red; sky-elevator is ascending towards the sun, trembling; a missile flies a trajectory of no return; the river flows through the secret tunnel in the palace and warms up the buildings along its banks; a lonely knight strolls across the stretched-out villages; angels and madmen are having a duel among the ruins of collapsed buildings and the abandoned fields; the astute businessmen are busying on the container dock; a batwoman is contemplating in the air between skyscrapers; the kind beast has its desire for love realized…We are trying to uncover the secrets of this city, and to discover ourselves in the shadow of virtuality. We can see the city’s rare moment of sublimity and its boiling colors, we can breath its free air through our consciousness, we can even feel the humidity, and the power of love.

3. Virtual / Real

“The core of the world is emptiness, the rule of the moving things and objects in the universe is empty space, those which exist revolve around non-existence…” — ParsifalIf: what we see and touch are real, what we breath and feel are virtual; our voice is real, our memory is virtual; fortune is real, poverty is virtual; fulfillment is real, sadness is virtual; resentment is real, affection is virtual; foolishness is real, wisdom is virtual; reigning is real, endurance is virtual; living is real, dying is virtual; the land is real, the sky is virtual…then, from this moment on, let all the virtual-real conflicts vanish in RMB City.Flee from the twilight of the real world, try reversing all the discussions about realness by shifting them into the virtual light year. Be vertical against or parallel to the virtual, stab through the protection of reality with the sword of virtualness. This time, the once-invincible real is the defeated one.

4. The World

“The World” depicted on the tarot is a city with round barrier.Our world, however, is constructed with “transparency” and “imagination”, does it exist? It may not be. Even if it exists now, it won’t in the future. It could end after our visit, and start over again when we return. Eventually, after numerous fleeing and sneaking in, we will have the experience the whole World.


”Did you ever happen to see a city resembling this one?” Kublai Khan asked Marco Polo. “No, sire,” Marco answered, “I should never have imagined a city like this could exist.”RMB City is such a city, you are sincerely welcomed. China Tracy

Editor's Critique

The design connects me back to the work of Andy Best and Merja Puustinen, slightly more realistic and likely more direct in its provocative cultural commentary not only of China, but the US as well. The opera whose URL lies below seems to resonate more today than just a few years ago. Perhaps its the recent revelations by Edward Snowden on NSA spying that makes the idea of our existence within a digital Panopticon (an 18th century prison design where one guard can watch the many) brings a shudder. Perhaps its Tablets, Smart Phones, Google Glass & the Oculus Rift. The distance between the physical and virtual is closing fast.

The performances are also truly moving, I do recommend reading more about the RMB City and projects.

Technology Used

Second Life

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