Happy New Year and Cai Guo-Qiang in Argentina

Dear Cai Studio friends,

We hope each and every one of you enjoyed a pleasant holiday season surrounded by your loved ones.

Cai and the team recently came back from Buenos Aires, where his exhibition Impromptu opened to the public at Fundación Proa and will remain on view until March 1, 2015. The exhibition includes new series of gunpowder drawings on paper and gunpowder paintings on canvas, as well as two new art installations. In conjunction with the exhibition, Cai will also create a new large-scale explosion event Life is a Milonga: Tango Fireworks for Argentina that will take place in front of Fundación Proa at Vuelta de Rocha on January 24, 2015.

For Cai’s statements about the exhibition and the explosion event in Buenos Aires, keep reading below…

Cai Guo-Qiang and volunteers rushing in to put out flames from ignition of gunpowder drawing Sentinels of the Enchanted Valley, Galpón de la Boca, Buenos Aires, 2014. Photo by Wen-You Cai, courtesy Cai Studio.

Cai Guo-Qiang and volunteers rushing in to put out flames from ignition of gunpowder drawing Sentinels of the Enchanted Valley, Galpón de la Boca, Buenos Aires, 2014. Photo by Wen-You Cai, courtesy Cai Studio.

“For this exhibition, I set a small but ambitious goal: How can I push myself and improve my gunpowder drawings?

In recent years, I have worked in different places around the world, initiating dialogues with different cultures and people through collaboration. By absorbing nutrients from the land I work in, I have perfected a methodology, which has allowed me to create a body of work that revolves around different themes with relative ease and familiarity.

My exploratory journey in Argentina has not been smooth. The more I learn about the country, the more confused I become. Her culture, the integration of immigrants with this piece of land have made me feel lost and perplexed. As my work here materialized in a more spontaneous and organic manner, the exhibition is titled Impromptu. Sure enough, the gunpowder here is difficult to handle: if I use too little, it does not catch on fire; however, if I use too much, it ignites with ruthless ferocity. At times, the bricks and cardboard that covered the drawing sizzled when they were cast aside after the explosion! Flames erupted time after time as I watched, and the drawings were set ablaze. The outcome was far from what I imagined; after this experience, I cannot help but admit that I do not have great control. Yet secretly I felt both a youthful impetuousness and an irrepressible excitement. It must have been twenty years since I last experienced this pain and pleasure simultaneously! I started to question myself –– why am I afraid of burning holes through the drawing? Don’t the burnt parts add to the presence of the medium itself? I saw more… and it may have opened another door to freedom.

Argentina and her people baffled me, bringing me both anxieties and surprises: the natural landscapes that are completely different from one another; the diverse styles of milongas and dancers; the guidance I received from choreographers and musicologists; along with the assistance and warmth of nearly 100 volunteers from Universidad Nacional de las Artes (UNA) and Instituto Municipal de Cerámica de Avellaneda.  Fundación PROA’s courage lies in that they are willing to go on an adventure with me, bearing the consequences of my impromptu works, which may or may not live up to the title of the exhibition. I am like a seed sown on this land, now growing and bearing fruit after absorbing the sunshine, water and love from the people here.”

The first work that visitors encounter in the exhibition is Life is a Milonga, an installation comprising of nine ceramic figurines of couples swaying in the air, dancing the tango to the recognizable rhythm of “La Cumparsita” playing melancholically from music boxes. From the ceiling, nine bar stools hang upside-down, supporting the swings that carry the figurines.

“After visiting several milongas, I observed several different types of behaviors: there were people sitting on the sides waiting to join the dance; people walking over to join the dance; and a mélange with people, lights and music of all sorts—dancers grouped in diverse combinations, swaying and moving in tandem. Through this installation work, I hope to express my uncertain yet boundless impressions of the milonga, and the lives of the people in it.

The swaying swings form a relationship with the music boxes, which play La Cumparsita at different speeds, as though they are vocalizing everyone’s thoughts, aspirations and sorrows. Associated with people’s childhoods and fantasies, the swings, too, have an air of mystique.”

A new series of gunpowder drawings inspired by Argentinian landscapes is presented in Gallery 2. The works reflect Cai’s impressions during his visits to the Misiones and Salta regions in the north of Argentina.

Exhibition view at Fundación Proa. Photo by Wen-You Cai, courtesy Cai Studio.

Exhibition view at Fundación Proa. Photo by Wen-You Cai, courtesy Cai Studio.

Sentinels of the Enchanted Valley, gunpowder on paper, 300 x 1600 cm. Exhibition view at Fundación Proa. Photo by Wen-You Cai, courtesy Cai Studio.

Sentinels of the Enchanted Valley, gunpowder on paper, 300 x 1600 cm. Exhibition view at Fundación Proa. Photo by Wen-You Cai, courtesy Cai Studio.

“The colossal sizes of the drawings turn them into spatial works, allowing viewers to enter the scene of the drawing. The content of each drawing and the relationship between them reflect the experiences I had when exploring the landscapes of Argentina, feeling the country’s land with my body and taking a stroll in its geographical and cultural landscapes. When making the drawings, I used my body to experience the landscapes again: the mountain ranges of Cachi, where fog constantly comes and goes, and the spiky cacti that absorb moisture from the fog; the boundless Iguazú Falls that have no beginning and no end; and the cemetery where the eternal “residents” slumber in harmony on the distant plateau of Cachi. There I met a family and helped them repaint their parents’ graves with a few strokes of new paint.

When I made the drawings, the paper was laid on the floor. I used my arms and hands to rub and push gunpowder; then I decided where to ignite the fuse and where to add weight on top of the drawing to intensify the explosion. This process allowed me to experience once more both the visible and the unseen energies in the landscapes, reinitiating my conversation with nature. The explosion enabled me to revisit the relationships in energy: the cascading waterfalls; the rising water vapor; the rain that follows; how they sculpt the movement in valleys and so on.”

The latest iteration of Cai’s ongoing exploration of painting traditions, a new series of six gunpowder paintings on canvas, titled Impromptu, is presented in gallery 3.

Impromptu, gunpowder on canvas, variable dimensions. Exhibition view at Fundación Proa. Photo by Wen-You Cai, courtesy Cai Studio.

Impromptu, gunpowder on canvas, variable dimensions. Exhibition view at Fundación Proa. Photo by Wen-You Cai, courtesy Cai Studio.

“These six works on canvas are a mystery and an unknown that I left for myself. When I work on an exhibition, I usually leave one gallery with an uncertain outcome, so I can surprise myself and create some anxiety for myself when encountering this unknown. I intentionally made the canvases tall and narrow, so the proportions are similar to altarpieces, alluding to Southern European Medieval and Renaissance painting. I referenced the atmosphere in paintings by El Greco—one of my favorite painters—and added tango dancers dancing at different speeds; I also selected images of nearly 100 small wooden animal carvings that I fell deeply in love with at Iguazú. The Guaraní people use burn marks on the wooden animal carvings, which inspired me to use gunpowder to create their images. Multiple timelines and diverse cultural characteristics appear in these vertical compositions. Although these disparate elements form a certain disharmony, they capture precisely my perception of and bewilderment toward Argentina. Because of this, I am most moved by the spirit and temperament of these works, brought about by these independent and chaotic energies.

It is thanks to the hard work and emotional intelligence of dozens of volunteers from the Universidad Nacional de las Artes (UNA) that these groups of works are grounded in this land.”

COMING SOON. SAVE THE DATE!

LIFE IS A MILONGA: TANGO FIREWORKS FOR ARGENTINA

January 24, 2015; 8pm

Ephemeral event to be realized at Vuelta de Rocha, La Boca, Buenos Aires
In front of: Fundación PROA
Av Pedro de Mendoza 1929
Buenos Aires
, Argentina

Proposal for Life is a Milonga: Tango Fireworks for Argentina, 2014. Courtesy Cai Studio.

Proposal for Life is a Milonga: Tango Fireworks for Argentina, 2014. Courtesy Cai Studio.

“My first visit to Buenos Aires took place in March of 2014. The history of Buenos Aires as a port deeply inspired me, and I was especially touched by the immigrant legacy of the neighborhood of La Boca and its rich cultural traditions. The idea of creating a tribute to Argentinean history and tango immediately emerged. La Boca’s creative past still reverberates at each street and corner. It is my hope to use this opportunity to invite the public of Buenos Aires to tap once again into this rich vein; hence my proposal combines the power of history, dance and contemporary visual art. Using my signature aesthetic language, the artwork will use fireworks as a medium and will actively engage the public as participants.

For Tango Fireworks, I am using a brand new approach to pyrotechnic design. During the creative process, I invited experts such as musicologists, choreographers and dancers to collaborate with me. I used video to record the dancers’ movements and the movement of the bandoneón from many different angles, so that I could use the dancers’ steps and body movements to design the fireworks. The fireworks will appear over the water of Vuelta de Rocha, imitating the dancers’ and the bandoneón’s motions. On January 24, 2015, the public will be invited to watch and dance along to Tango Fireworks in front of Fundación PROA, transforming Vuelta de Rocha once again into a pulsating hub of creative energy.

Vuelta de Rocha was one of the earliest ports of entry for immigrants in Buenos Aires, and it bore witness to the new migrants’ hope, disillusionment, anxieties and excitement. At this port, different cultures interwove to generate new traditions and artistic creations, and Tango is a great example of such an extraordinary phenomenon. By presenting the chronological development of the music and the dance, Tango Fireworks also attempts to reflect upon the sea of changes undergone throughout Argentina’s history as a nation over the twentieth century.”

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Elena Cue interviews Cai Guo-Qiang

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Cai’s dear friend Elena Cue recently interviewed Cai about his artwork, his process, and penned an article about his life. To read more about Cai’s development into an artist, the artworks of his past, and the ideas that inspire him now, visit the blog Alejandra de Argos. The interview is also available in Spanish on ABC.

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Elegy: Explosion Event for the Opening of Cai Guo-Qiang: The Ninth Wave

Elegy, chapter one of Elegy: Explosion Event for the Opening of Cai Guo-Qiang: The Ninth Wave, realized on the riverfront of the Power Station of Art, 5:00 p.m., approximately 8 minutes Photo by Zhang Feiyu, courtesy Cai Studio

Elegy, chapter one of Elegy: Explosion Event for the Opening of Cai Guo-Qiang: The Ninth Wave, realized on the riverfront of the Power Station of Art, 5:00 p.m., approximately 8 minutes
Photo by Zhang Feiyu, courtesy Cai Studio

On August 8, the opening day of the exhibition, Elegy: Explosion Event for the Opening of Cai Guo-Qiang: The Ninth Wave took place at 5 pm on the Huangpu River by the museum. The work was the first public large‐scale daytime ‘explosion event’ the artist realized in Mainland China. Conceived in three chapters—Elegy, Remembrance and Consolation—the ceremonial ‘explosion event’ projects an image of nature in decline.

Elegy, chapter one of Elegy: Explosion Event for the Opening of Cai Guo-Qiang: The Ninth Wave, realized on the riverfront of the Power Station of Art, 5:00 p.m., approximately 8 minutes.  Photo by JJY Photo, courtesy Cai Studio

Elegy, chapter one of Elegy: Explosion Event for the Opening of Cai Guo-Qiang: The Ninth Wave, realized on the riverfront of the Power Station of Art, 5:00 p.m., approximately 8 minutes
Photo by JJY Photo, courtesy Cai Studio

The first part, Elegy, opened with dramatic black and white smoke mines and cascade effects. Reminiscent of a funerary parade, black smoke “crows” with flapping wings represent the joys and sorrows in life. The scene then ended with green smoke, or “grass and weeds,” resembling an exhale, or a mournful sigh.

Remembrance, chapter two of Elegy: Explosion Event for the Opening of Cai Guo-Qiang: The Ninth Wave, realized on the riverfront of the Power Station of Art, 5:00 p.m., approximately 8 minutes.  Photo by JJY Photo, courtesy Cai Studio

Remembrance, chapter two of Elegy: Explosion Event for the Opening of Cai Guo-Qiang: The Ninth Wave, realized on the riverfront of the Power Station of Art, 5:00 p.m., approximately 8 minutes.
Photo by JJY Photo, courtesy Cai Studio

In Remembrance, colored smoke effects splashed across the sky, as though nostalgically recalling past events and friendships throughout the years.

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Consolation, chapter three of Elegy: Explosion Event for the Opening of Cai Guo-Qiang: The Ninth Wave, realized on the riverfront of the Power Station of Art, 5:00 p.m., approximately 8 minutes Photo by Zhang Feiyu, courtesy Cai Studio

Consolation brought warmth to the living; short, powerful spurts of aerials shells formed colored and white chrysanthemums in the sky, gaining speed for the finale. Yellow willows filled the horizon slowly, drawing the explosion event to a close.

In line with the theme of the exhibition, environmentally safe daytime colored smoke pyrotechnic products are used for the artwork; food coloring, food-grade powders, fabric dyes and other nontoxic materials are used as main ingredients.

Remembrance, chapter two of Elegy: Explosion Event for the Opening of Cai Guo-Qiang: The Ninth Wave, realized on the riverfront of the Power Station of Art, 5:00 p.m., approximately 8 minutes.  Photo by JJY Photo, courtesy Cai Studio

Remembrance, chapter two of Elegy: Explosion Event for the Opening of Cai Guo-Qiang: The Ninth Wave, realized on the riverfront of the Power Station of Art, 5:00 p.m., approximately 8 minutes
Photo by JJY Photo, courtesy Cai Studio

Cai Guo-Qiang: The Ninth Wave opened at the Power Station of Art, Shanghai on August 8, and will be open through October 26. 

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The Ninth Wave Sets Sail

On July 17, The Ninth Wave, a fishing boat from the artist’s hometown of Quanzhou carrying 99 fabricated animals, navigated along the Bund on the Huangpu River, ultimately landing at PSA’s Great Hall. On the boat, tigers, pandas, camels and other animals appear weather-beaten with their heads bowed, as though seasick from the currents of our times.

The work was inspired by Russian painter Ivan Aivazovsky’s 1850 eponymous painting, which famously depicted survivors from a shipwreck clinging to a mast as in the last throes of survival, expressing human’s helplessness in the face of nature’s unforgiving forces.

Cai Guo-Qiang: The Ninth Wave at the Power Station of Art opens August 8 in Shanghai with daytime ‘explosion event’ Elegy to shed light on China’s environmental issues. 

 

Video produced by 33StudiosNY. 

 

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Vivid Memories at Fondation Cartier

To commemorate its 30th Anniversary, Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain opened Vivid Memories, an exhibition that reflects upon the history of the foundation, along with the relationships with artists and curators that it has formed and nurtured over time.

Cai Guo-Qiang and Hong Hong Wu with Fei Dawei and Huang Yong Ping during opening of Vivid Memories, Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris, France, 2014 Photo by Mariluz Hoyos, courtesy Cai Studio

Cai Guo-Qiang and Hong Hong Wu with Fei Dawei and Huang Yong Ping during opening of Vivid Memories, Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris, France, 2014
Photo by Mariluz Hoyos, courtesy Cai Studio

During his three months at Fondation Cartier, Cai collected flowers, distilled perfumes, and cooked medicinal pellets; both he and his wife, Hong Hong, made art while enjoying the same sunlight as the Impressionists. For the occasion of the exhibition, Cai reflected upon his time at the residency in 1993 and created Cai and Hong Hong at Fondation Cartier, 1993, a multimedia installation that incorporates his collection of objects, along with the artworks created by both Cai and his wife, Hong Hong Wu while in France.

Installation view of Hong Hong Wu’s Paintings Made During Residence at Jouy-en-Josas 1993, Paris, France, 2014 Photo by Mariluz Hoyos, courtesy Cai Studio

Installation view of Hong Hong Wu’s paintings made during residence at Jouy-en-Josas 1993, Paris, France, 2014
Photo by Mariluz Hoyos, courtesy Cai Studio

Cai Guo-Qiang and project director, Chinyan Wong, writing on the wall during installation process of Cai and Hong Hong at Fondation Cartier, 1993,  Paris, France, 2014 Photo by Mariluz Hoyos, courtesy of Cai Studio

Cai Guo-Qiang and project director, Chinyan Wong, writing on the wall during installation process of Cai and Hong Hong at Fondation Cartier, 1993, Paris, France, 2014
Photo by Mariluz Hoyos, courtesy of Cai Studio

 

Installation view of Cai and Hong Hong at Fondation Cartier, 1993, Paris, France, 2014 Photo by Mariluz Hoyos, courtesy Cai Studio

Installation view of Cai and Hong Hong at Fondation Cartier, 1993, Paris, France, 2014
Photo by Mariluz Hoyos, courtesy Cai Studio

Cai Guo-Qiang photographing Hong Hong Wu in front of her paintings made during residence at Jouy-en-Josas, Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris, France, 1993 Photo by Mariluz Hoyos, courtesy Cai Studio

Cai Guo-Qiang photographing Hong Hong Wu in front of her paintings made during residence at Jouy-en-Josas, Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris, France, 1993
Photo by Mariluz Hoyos, courtesy Cai Studio

 

 

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Falling Back to Earth closes on May 11!

Cai Guo-Qiang pretending to play the flute during installation process, 2013. Photo courtesy Cai Studio.

Cai Guo-Qiang pretending to play the flute during installation process, 2013. Photo courtesy Cai Studio.

There’s only one more week to see Falling Back to Earth. The exhibition has had the second-highest attendance rates, after the 2007-2008 exhibition on Andy Warhol. There have already been over 200,000 visitors, making it one of the most successful ticketed exhibitions in Australia!

Be sure to see the exhibition before it closes!

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Yatai Museum of Contemporary Art — 20th Anniversary of Cai Guo-Qiang and Iwaki

Installation view of YMoCA (Yatai Museum of Contemporary Art), Iwaki, Japan, 2014. Photo by Wen-You Cai, courtesy Cai Studio.

Installation view of YMoCA (Yatai Museum of Contemporary Art), Iwaki, Japan, 2014. Photo by Wen-You Cai, courtesy Cai Studio.

 

The Yatai Museum of Contemporary Art took place on April 12-13, 2014, in Iwaki, Fukushima, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the friendship between Cai Guo-Qiang and Iwaki at the Snake Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA). Co-founded by Cai Studio and the Iwaki Board for the Project to Plant Ten Thousand Cherry Blossom Trees, SMoCA opened in Iwaki Fukushima, Japan last year. The opening of SMoCA marked the inauguration of the Project to Plant Ten Thousand Cherry Blossom Trees. This year, artist Cai Guo-Qiang acted as the director of SMoCA. Expanding upon last year’s project, three events were held to commemorate the twenty-year friendship between the artist and Iwaki:

Ⅰ. Yatai Museum of Contemporary Art (YMoCA):

Residents from Iwaki set up multiple yatai—or small, mobile food stands that prepare and sell small dishes—creating small dishes using local produce that were safe to consume. The gesture was meant to dispel any rumors that local seafood and agricultural products may be contaminated by nuclear radiation. Local residents also made handicrafts, which were for sale at the museum, transforming the site into a flea market. In addition, children’s drawings and sculptures were also on display at SMoCA.

 

Installation view of food stands at YMoCA (Yatai Museum of Contemporary Art), Iwaki, Japan, 2014. Photo by Wen-You Cai, courtesy Cai Studio.

Installation view of food stands at YMoCA (Yatai Museum of Contemporary Art), Iwaki, Japan, 2014. Photo by Wen-You Cai, courtesy Cai Studio.

Clown making balloon animals as part of YMoCA (Yatai Museum of Contemporary Art), Iwaki, Japan, 2014. Photo by Wen-You Cai, courtesy Cai Studio.

Clown making balloon animals as part of YMoCA (Yatai Museum of Contemporary Art), Iwaki, Japan, 2014. Photo by Wen-You Cai, courtesy Cai Studio.

 

Ⅱ. Harajuku Kawaii (“cute”)  Culture in Iwaki

Invited by artist Cai Guo-Qiang, Sebastian Masuda, one of the pioneers of Harajuku street culture in Tokyo, along with the band Nikoman brought a wave of Harajuku kawaii (“cute”) culture for the people and children in Iwaki village.

With assistance from the Iwaki Board, Sebastian Masuda organized a children’s workshop Let’s Make Some Kawaii Lanterns! with a local elementary school. Children were invited to design and make their own lanterns using kawaii, or “cute” materials, such as brightly colored soft toys, balls, and beads brought by Masuda. After the workshop, the children brought their works to SMoCA, and decorated the structure with their creations.

 

Students with lanterns they constructed in Sebastian Masuda's Let's Make Some Kawaii Lanterns, Iwaki, Japan, 2014. Photo by Wen-You Cai, courtesy Cai Studio.

Students with lanterns they constructed in Sebastian Masuda’s Let’s Make Some Kawaii Lanterns, Iwaki, Japan, 2014. Photo by Wen-You Cai, courtesy Cai Studio.

Installation view of lanterns created by students at YMoCA (Yatai Museum of Contemporary Art), Iwaki, Japan, 2014. Photo by Wen-You Cai, courtesy Cai Studio.

Installation view of lanterns created by students at YMoCA (Yatai Museum of Contemporary Art), Iwaki, Japan, 2014. Photo by Wen-You Cai, courtesy Cai Studio.

Neeko and Iwaki resident performing together during Nikoman Show, Iwaki, Japan, 2014. Photo by Wen-You Cai, courtesy Cai Studio.

Neeko and Iwaki resident performing together during Nikoman Show, Iwaki, Japan, 2014. Photo by Wen-You Cai, courtesy Cai Studio.

Ⅲ. Over a period of time, volunteers in Iwaki worked hard to extend SMoCA from 99 meters to 150 meters, linking the museum with Kaikou—The Keel (Returning Light—The Dragon Bone), a large-scale outdoor installation permanently installed on the hilltop of Tateyama, which has become a new local landmark.

Installation view of YMoCA (Yatai Museum of Contemporary Art), Iwaki, Japan, 2014. Photo by Wen-You Cai, courtesy Cai Studio.

Installation view of YMoCA (Yatai Museum of Contemporary Art), Iwaki, Japan, 2014. Photo by Wen-You Cai, courtesy Cai Studio.

Cai Guo-Qiang and Iwaki Team standing in front of Kaikou—The Keel (Returning Light—The Dragon Bone), Iwaki, Japan, 2014. Photo by Wen-You Cai, courtesy Cai Studio.

Cai Guo-Qiang and Iwaki Team standing in front of Kaikou—The Keel (Returning Light—The Dragon Bone), Iwaki, Japan, 2014. Photo by Wen-You Cai, courtesy Cai Studio.

Twenty Years of Friendship between Cai Guo-Qiang and Iwaki

The friendship between artist Cai Guo-Qiang and the town of Iwaki, Fukushima, began in 1994. Local volunteers helped the artist realize Cai Guo-Qiang: From the Pan-Pacific, a landmark solo exhibition in his artistic career at the Iwaki City Art Museum, by excavating a fishing boat from the beach for the installation KaikouThe Keel (Returning Lightthe Dragon Bone). Cai was also able to fund the 5,000-meter long night-time explosion project, The Horizon from the Pan-Pacific: Project for Extraterrestrials No. 14, through contributions from the Iwaki people; local residents each sponsored 2,000 yen (about US$20) for one meter of gunpowder fuse. In 2004, to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the realization of The Horizon from the Pan-Pacific: Project for Extraterrestrials No. 14, the same team of volunteers and friends in Iwaki excavated another big boat from the same beach. Together with the boat, they traveled tens of thousands of miles to America for Cai’s exhibition at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. The resulting installation work, Reflection—A Gift from Iwaki, has since toured all over the world; it has been exhibited at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; the Guggenheim Museum in New York and in Bilbao; the Taipei Fine Arts Museum; and Musée d’art moderne et d’art contemporain, Nice. Every time the work is exhibited, the team from Iwaki follows the vessel and assembles it onsite. The friendship between Iwaki and the artist and the passage of time have become the core themes of the work.“We emerged from that small fishing village together and stepped out into the world,” said Cai Guo-Qiang, “Now our hair is turning white and our limbs are not as deft as they once were, yet thanks to art, we have stood by each other through thick and thin [even when our nations quarrel]. The heartfelt friendship of over two decades that I share with the people of Iwaki is rare and precious. Iwaki not only set the stage for my career early on, but it also gave me encouragement and recognition.”

In August 2012, the Iwaki team traveled to Copenhagen, Denmark, to assist with the installation of Reflection—A Gift from Iwaki during Cai’s solo exhibition, A Clan of Boats, at the Faurschou Foundation. With generous support and advocacy from the Foundation, the Project to Plant Ten Thousand Cherry Blossom Trees was able to move forward, and the funds raised enabled cherry trees to be planted on an entire mountain. In October of the same year, Cai was honored at the 24th Praemium Imperiale with a Lifetime Achievement award in the Arts (Painting). He decided at once to donate his award earnings—15 million yen in total (approx. US$150,000). Half was given to the Asian Cultural Council to sponsor young Japanese artists to pursue advanced studies in New York, and the other half was used to realize SMoCA and to complete the cherry blossom project.

Co-founded by Cai Studio and the Iwaki Board for the Project to Plant Ten Thousand Cherry Blossom Trees, the Snake Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA) opened with an inaugural exhibition in 2013. As part of artist Cai Guo-Qiang’s conceptual series Everything is Museum, SMoCA subverts the definition of a traditional art museum. The artist initiated a community effort for the realization of SMoCA, and local residents and volunteers helped build a 99-meter long winding corridor with trees contaminated by radiation from the 11 March 2011 Great East Japan earthquake and Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. Meandering quietly across the mountains, the “museum” winds through the land on which 10,000 future cherry trees will be planted. The artist hopes the museum will become a space where the residents of Iwaki can bond with their children and let their dreams fly free.

 

Sponsors: Education Committee of Iwaki, Iwaki City Art Museum, Fukushima Minpo News, Fukushima Minyu News, and Iwaki Minpo News

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