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Cai Guo-Qiang in "Power"

“My work is sometimes like the poppy flower. It has this almost romantic side, but yet it also represents a poison,” says Cai Guo-Qiang, who harnesses the explosive power of gunpowder to create epic works that are born in violent on-site acts of performance.

For his show Inopportune at MASS MoCA, Cai explores catastrophe, pain and the meaning of terrorism in the world since September 11th with an installation of tumbling cars that follow a path through the air. In neighboring galleries, a video imagines a car bomb in Times Square and a series of stuffed tigers pierced by arrows elicits a disturbing, visceral reaction. “Behind all this is a very earnest and frank look at our society today,” says Cai.

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Cai Guo-Qiang

Accomplished in a variety of media, Cai Guo-Qiang began using gunpowder in his work to foster spontaneity and confront the controlled artistic tradition and social climate in China. While living in Japan from 1986 to 1995, he explored the properties of gunpowder in his drawings, leading to the development of his signature explosion events. These projects, while poetic and ambitious at their core, aim to establish an exchange between viewers and the larger universe. For his work, Cai draws on a wide variety of materials, symbols, narratives, and traditions: elements of feng shui, Chinese medicine and philosophy, images of dragons and tigers, roller coasters, computers, vending machines, and gunpowder.

“My work is sometimes like the poppy flower. It has this almost romantic side, but yet it also represents a poison.”

Cai Guo-Qiang

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Artist Cai Guo-Qiang discusses the inspiration for his work, his methodology, and his 2004 installation series, Inopportune.

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