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Posted in Uncategorized on October 21, 2016
On October 13, 2016, Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang—the first full-length documentary feature on Cai Guo-Qiang—premiered at Sotheby’s New York headquarters, attended by more than two hundred distinguished guests. As of October 14, the film appears in cinemas in New York and Los Angeles and is distributed in 190 countries via Netflix. Sky Ladder instantly caught the attention of the press and was reviewed by nearly fifty publications including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, and Vogue.
“Some of Cai Guo-Qiang’s art exists for mere moments. But my, how long it sticks in the mind. That enchantment is at the center of ‘Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang,’ a documentary that is as rewarding as this artist’s work.”
“It’s no spoiler to reveal that ‘Sky Ladder,’ the art project, eventually succeeds, and its fleeting existence is magnificent. It says something about the work, and perhaps about life, that brevity adds an element that’s both magical and saddening.”
“Though if you watch Mr. Cai’s works on video, you can always rewind.” —The New York Times
“A documentary that begs to be seen in a theater…‘Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang’ offers an inviting glimpse into the life of a truly international artist, one whose colorful fireworks displays literally paint the air…Kevin Macdonald’s beautifully shot, quietly hovering portrait is of a pensive, dogged man…” —The Los Angeles Times
“The documentary Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang was shot by Wes Anderson collaborator Robert Yeoman, who captures the beautiful, cacophonous (even terrifying) explosions, and the more sedentary moments of Cai’s everyday life with equal grace.” —Vogue
“Nothing typifies the toweringly celestial ambition of the Chinese contemporary artist Cai Guo-Qiang than his ‘sky ladder’, a project over 20 years in the making.” —The Guardian
“Cai’s grandmother watches [Sky Ladder] unfold via an iPad, after which the artist breathlessly asks her, ‘Isn’t your grandson awesome?’ It’s a beautiful, touching moment that says more about the artistic urge than any scholarly tome ever could.” —Hollywood Reporter
“Perhaps Cai‘s most compelling, personal work yet… As the massive sculpture ignites, it creates a fiery vision that miraculously ascends to the heavens…Chances to see such work in person are rare, but the film offers something even more special…” —Artnet News
“Macdonald effectively draws lines between his subject’s past and his present, attempting to make sense of what his harshest critics see as self-serving contradictions. In a way, it’s all of a piece, embracing the best and worst of an ever-changing nation.” —AV Club
“[…] the film hopes to catch the eye of Oscar voters. And frankly it stands a great chance of being nominated for Best Documentary, with its astute coverage of the artist, his groundbreaking work, his family, including his 100-year-old grandmother, and Mao’s China.” —Blasting News
Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang is scheduled to be released in China in November.
Watch the Film:
IFC Center (New York)
Show times: October 14 – 20, 1:15pm, 2:50pm, 4:25pm, 6:05pm
Address: 323 6th Ave, New York, NY 10014
Ticket purchase: http://www.ifccenter.com/films/sky-ladder-the-art-of-cai-guo-qiang/
Playhouse 7 (Los Angeles)
Show times: October 14 – 20, 11:00am, 1:00pm, 4:00pm, 6:00pm, 8:00pm, 10:00pm
Address: 673 East Colorado Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 91101
Ticket purchase: http://www.laemmle.com/films/41009
Posted in Uncategorized on October 21, 2016
Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang is a narrative documentary film directed by Academy Award winner Kevin Macdonald and produced by Wendi Deng Murdoch, Hugo Shong, and Fisher Stevens. The 70-minute feature will debut as a Netflix original film, and will be available in over 190 countries starting October 14, 2016. It will be the first full-length documentary feature on Cai, one of the world’s most influential contemporary artists.
The documentary will also be on view in New York from October 14 – 20 at the IFC Center:
323 6th Ave, New York, NY 10014
1:15 pm, 2:50 pm, 4:25 pm, 6:05 pm
Known for his work with gunpowder and fireworks, Cai Guo-Qiang’s explosive artwork has long amazed audiences all over the world. His works, which include drawings, paintings, installations, and explosion events, have been exhibited in almost every major art destination around the globe. While founded in Eastern philosophy, his artistic projects adopt ever-expanding forms of artistic expression and interpretation that respond to local cultures, histories, and various issues in modern society.
Director Kevin Macdonald spent two years with Cai, taking an in-depth look at the artist’s work and daily life while following him from New York to Buenos Aires, Shanghai, Beijing, Liuyang, and his hometown of Quanzhou. Told through the eyes of family, friends, collaborators, art experts, and Cai himself, along with rare footage selected from the artist’s archives, Sky Ladder follows Cai’s meteoric rise on the international stage. It is a dazzling journey that culminates in his becoming an artist known for “lighting fires” all over the world: highlighted by the Opening Ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, his 2008 Guggenheim solo exhibition in New York, the 2013 explosion event One Night Stand on the banks of the Seine, the 2014 daytime explosion event Elegy in Shanghai—among many others. The film also delves into the harsh realities behind these spectacular visions: the struggles, compromises, vulnerabilities, love and family ties, as well as the artist’s complex and profound feelings toward his home and country.
At the heart of the film is Sky Ladder, a 500-meter ladder of golden flames that hissed and roared its way from the shore of a small fishing village in Quanzhou up into the blue sky and the infinite universe beyond. This is the realization of Cai’s childhood dream—a dream to connect with the stars—one that has been attempted multiple times around the world, and one that he never stopped pursuing despite countless obstacles. In June 2015, he made yet another attempt. At dawn, with help from Chinese technical experts and hundreds of local villagers, Cai dedicated Sky Ladder as a gift to his one hundred-year-old grandmother and to his beloved hometown.
A story of one individual artist and his singular dream, Sky Ladder is also a film about undeniably universal human emotions. It has the power to move audiences from any culture or nation, as proven by responses at both the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and the 2016 BFI London Film Festival.
About the Filmmakers
Director Kevin Macdonald’s works include Academy Award Best Documentary One Day in September(1999), BAFTA Best British Film Touching the Void (2003), and Academy Award-winning feature film The Last King of Scotland (2006). Executive Producer Bennet Miller is known for directing Capote (2005), for which he was nominated for an Academy Award and a BAFTA; Moneyball (2011), which received six Academy Award nominations including Best Picture; and Foxcatcher (2014), for which he won Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival. Executive Producer Angus Wall is known for The Social Network(2010) and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011), for both of which he won the Academy Award for Best Film Editing. Producers include Wendi Deng Murdoch (television producer and co-founder of online art platform Artsy), Fisher Stevens (director and producer of over thirty films, including 2010 Academy Award Best Documentary The Cove), and Hugo Shong (Founding General Partner of IDG Capital Partners and renowned Chinese film producer). Assistant Director and Co-producer Xia Shanshan has worked with Cai Guo-Qiang for many years, and has produced numerous art documentaries including What About the Art? Contemporary Art from China (2016). Director of Photography Robert Yeoman is a longtime collaborator of world-renowned filmmaker Wes Anderson. He was the director of photography for numerous critically acclaimed features including Moonrise Kingdom (2012) and The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014).
Show Times, New York, October 14 – 20:
IFC Center, 1:15 pm, 2:50 pm, 4:25 pm, 6:05 pm
323 6th Ave, New York, NY 10014
Posted in Uncategorized on January 8, 2015
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…
“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.
“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.
“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
“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.”
Posted in Uncategorized on October 28, 2014
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.
Posted in Uncategorized on August 21, 2014
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.
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.
In Remembrance, colored smoke effects splashed across the sky, as though nostalgically recalling past events and friendships throughout the years.
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.
Cai Guo-Qiang: The Ninth Wave opened at the Power Station of Art, Shanghai on August 8, and will be open through October 26.
Posted in Uncategorized on July 20, 2014
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.
Posted in Uncategorized on May 15, 2014
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.
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.