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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.

More information and credits


Created by: Susan Sollins & Susan Dowling. Executive Producer & Curator: Susan Sollins. Series Producer: Eve-Laure Moros Ortega. Associate Producer: Migs Wright. Assistant Curator: Wesley Miller. Production Manager: Alice Bertoni. Production Coordinator: Kelly Shindler. Producer: Catherine Tatge. Editor: Steven Wechsler. Host: David Alan Grier. Director of Photography: Takahisa Araki, Richard Chisolm, Mark Falstad, Gary Henoch, Samuel Henriques, Mead Hunt, Tom Hurwitz, Joel Shapiro, David Smith, Ken Willinger, & Sérgio Zeigler. Sound: Tom Bergin, Steve Bores, Dwayne Dell, Bob Freeman, Roger Phenix, Merce Williams, & Sérgio Zeigler. Assistant Camera: Chris DeGuy, Craig Feldman, Brian Hwang, Steve Nealey, & Matt Thurber. Production Assistant: Matt Cavanaugh & Justin Leitstein. Assistant Avid Editor: Robert Achs, Jamie Courville, Sean Frechette, Mike Heffron, David Kreger, Cara Leroy O’Connell, Joaquin Perez, Aaron Sheddrick, & Lynn True. Voice-Over Artist (Cai Guo-Qiang segment): Clem Cheung. Translator (Cai Guo-Qiang segment): Ai Guo, Louisa Lam, & Mingxia Li. Still Photography: Alice Bertoni.

Creative Consultant: Ed Sherin. Art Design & Animation: Open, New York. On-Line Editor: Don Wyllie & Frame:Runner NYC. Composer: Peter Foley. Voice-Over Artist: Jace Alexander. Sound Editing: Margaret Crimmins, Greg Smith, & Dog Bark Sound. Sound Mix: Tony Volante & Sound Lounge. Animation Stand: Frank Ferrigno & Frame:Runner NYC. Introductory Host Segments Created by: INTERspectacular. Commissioned Video Art by: Teresa Hubbard / Alexander Birchler.

Artworks Courtesy of: Laylah Ali; Ida Applebroog; Cai Guo-Qiang; Krzysztof Wodiczko; 303 Gallery, New York; Galerie Lelong, New York; Miller Block Gallery, Boston; & Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York. Archival Footage Courtesy of; Artist Network Pictures/Takahisa Araki; Zlatko Cosic/EYE PRODUCTION; Fox News/KTVI; & Ufer! Art Documentary.

Special Thanks: Mariana Valdrighi Amaral; Katie Block; The Art21 Board of Trustees; Center for Advanced Visual Studies, MIT; Curious Pictures; Simon Greenberg; Fireworks by Grucci; Andrea Hall; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; Stephanie Joson; Tomoko Kimata; The Kitchen; Jennifer Wen Ma; Rita MacDonald; The Maritime Hotel; MASS MoCA; Dean Moss; Nicole Parente; Sarah Paulson; Soundtrack F/T; Mari Spirito; The Arthur M. Sackler and Freer Gallery of Art; Amm Talluto; Charwei Tsai; & Adam Whiton.

Director of Education & Outreach: Jessica Hamlin. Director of Development: Kathi Pavlick. Development Associate: Sara Simonson.

Interns: Susan Agliata, Nathan Townes-Anderson, Hannah Blumenthal, Agnes Bolt, Lisa Charde, Mary Chou, Kate Crawford, Amanda Donnan, Sophie Dunoyer de Segonzac, Suzy Foster, Jules Gaffney, Katie Hen, Heather Hughes, Adam Krakowski, Georgia Kung, David Mark Kupperberg, Maiko Kyogoku, Phil Logan, Lisa Margulies, Michelle Maydanchik, Carla Meyers, Christine Miller, Geoffrey Pan, Sujay Pandit, Jihan Robinson, Jennifer Sarkilahti, Megan Scally, Karen Seapker, Greg Shilling, Sarah Sliwa, Jennifer Smith, & Elizabeth Swift.

Public Relations: Kelly & Salerno Communications. Station Relations: De Shields Associates, Inc. Legal Counsel: Albert Gottesman. Bookkeeper: Marea Alverio-Chaveco & William Handy.

Major underwriting for Season 3 of Art in the Twenty-First Century is provided by National Endowment for the Arts, PBS, Agnes Gund and Daniel Shapiro, Nathan Cummings Foundation, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Jon and Mary Shirley Foundation, Bagley Wright Fund Bloomberg, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, JPMorgan Chase, Melva Bucksbaum and Raymond Learsy, The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

Closed captionsAvailable in English, German, Romanian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian

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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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Spirituality, Chaos, and “Inopportune”

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

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