Explosive Meaning: Cai Guo-Qiang
I visited the Cai Guo-Qiang mini-retrospective during its final days at the Guggenheim, before it travels to Beijing for the Olympics. Mr. Cai’s work touches on themes that are at once shockingly obvious and surprisingly subtle. He is well known for exploring post 9/11 anxiety through the invocation of terrorist methods of violence in his pyrotechnic projects and site-specific installations.
Peter Schjeldahl explains Cai’s artfully explosive ruminations in his exceptional New Yorker piece, Gunpowder Plots: “He objectifies those thrills, in consciousness, even as he triggers them. The payoff is philosophical indeed, giving concrete reference to abstract thought on meanings of destruction. ‘No destruction, no construction,’ Cai told me, paraphrasing Mao. That’s a dicey sentiment, considering the tyrannical source.”
Mr. Cai’s oeuvre also examines ancient mythology, taoist cosmology, studies of extraterrestrial activity, and Chinese medicine. He effectively deconstructs existing art historical canons through the dramatic re-organization of space, incorporating feng-shui techniques. Stay tuned for Mr. Cai’s opening and closing ceremonies for the Beijing Summer Olympics, he is director of visual and special effects, and will undoubtedly orchestrate an impressive program that resonates with the subconscious fears and anxieties common to the global human experience.
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Tags: Beijing, Cai Guo-Qiang, contemporary art, museums, New York