Gunpowder artist Cai Guo-Quang's explosive Black Ceremony makes fireworks seem at once both terrifying and beautiful.
- Gunpowder artist Cai Guo-Quang's explosive 'Black Ceremony' in Qatar.
Make-stuff-go-boom artist Cai Guo-Qiang, who had a show at the Freer gallery not too long ago, was in Qatar last week for the eardrum-tearing debut of his latest exhibition at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art. Titled Saraab ("mirage"), the show deals with China's historical relationship with its Middle Eastern trading partners and, by many accounts, seems pretty impressive.
But the artist screwed the pooch in one major way: He made the opening so wowza that everything now, including his signature "drawings" of gunpowder burns on paper, is anticlimax. Cai assembled a mind-incinerating fireworks ballet that is being heralded as the world's largest "daytime" display, ever. (He had help from the Gruccis of Long Island, who handle NYC's annual Independence Day display as well as the pyrotechnics behind many U.S. presidential elections.) See below for a video of his so-called "Black Ceremony," earplugs being optional.
According to the event's Facebook page, the Black Ceremony "attempts to confront matters of life and death, spiritual homecomings, potential transformations of symbols and the relationship between different cultures." How the work's smoky, airborne shapes depict all that I'll leave for you to decide. I spot: A wall of flame, a rainbow and a megaflock of blackbirds. After watching this, you may wonder why our government is still playing with rings and hearts while China is developing the most advanced fireworks tech around.*
* CORRECTION: Turns out that China had nothing to do with developing the ordnance... well, other than coming up with the idea for gunpowder way back when, of course. Phil Grucci of fireworks fame writes in: "Although the artistic vision of the exhibit was produced by my good friend Cai Guo-qiang, I must proudly correct your perception that the technology came from China. In fact the design, engineering, and manufacturing of all of the Pixelburst-tm smoke shell sequences came from our USA based manufacturing firm Pyrotechnique by Grucci and the exhibit was produced by our Display company Fireworks by Grucci." USA! USA!