Cai Guo-Qiang: A Clan of Boats
Faurschou Foundation Copenhagen
07 September 2012 – 07 December 2013
For Faurschou Foundation's inaugural exhibition, Cai Guo-Qiang has referenced the foundation's new location in the Free Port of Copenhagen, as well as the country's historical and cultural connection to the sea. The exhibition revisits several prominent themes in Cai's oeuvre, such as the ocean, voyages, and cross-cultural encounters.
The exhibition includes a series of newly commissioned gunpowder drawings inspired by Denmark's nature, culture, and history. It also highlights 'Reflection-A Gift from Iwaki' (2004), part of the foundation's collection, as the centerpiece, surrounded by its own reflection and that of the drawings from the mirror flooring.
On the day of the opening, Cai ignited thousands of mini rockets from a small traditional Danish boat 'Freja' on the water behind the foundation, in front of an enthusiastic crowd from all over Denmark and beyond. The scorch marks from the explosion transformed the boat into a three-dimensional gunpowder drawing, and this sculpture subsequently becomes a part of the exhibition, generating a dialogue with 'Reflection-A Gift from Iwaki'.
Three videos are also shown in the gallery, documenting the process of the exhibition: Cai's site visits to different locations in Denmark and the making of the gunpowder drawings; the story of 'Reflection - A Gift from Iwaki', and the preparation and explosion of 'Freja: Explosion Event for Faurschou Foundation'.
A Clan of Boats
Since childhood, Cai has held a special fascination with boats, a familiar symbol he grew up with in the harbour city of Quanzhou, China, which appear constantly throughout his repertoire. 'A Clan of Boats' allows Cai to recount a number of them, which he refers to as his 'children'. Among them is the Faurschou Foundation's own 'Reflection - A Gift from Iwaki'.
A wreck filled with broken white porcelain from Dehuain Cai's hometown, the work has been shown at many important museums around the world. Each time the team of Iwaki volunteers, who excavated the boat as a gift to commemorate their friendship with Cai since 1994, would arrive on site to install the hull, just as they did for 'A Clan of Boats', and they are very much part of the work.
A visit to the Viking Ship Museum on the Roskilde Fjord inspired the artist to construct a conversation between 'Reflection - A Gift from Iwaki', the Viking shipbuilding practice, and the Danish landscape. The sand dunes covered with lyme grass under the dramatic clouds along the shore of northwestern Jutland intrigued Cai, and the custom of fishermen taking their boats ashore rather than docking at the port. The Nordic shipbuilding tradition also brought Cai to Jægersborg Hegn, where centuries-old oaks stand, originally cultivated for an invincible fleet. Nearby in the Jægersborg Dyrehave, a horse-drawn carriage ride showed the artists herds of deer grazing peacefully in what was once the royal hunting ground.
The experience from Cai's local excursions culminated in the gunpowder drawings enveloping the gallery space, produced entirely on site with the assistance of local volunteers.
Cai and Denmark
Before exhibiting at some of the most prestigious museums in the world, Cai held his first solo exhibition in the Western world in Denmark. When Louisiana Museum of Modern Art presented 'Flying Dragon in the Heavens' in 1997, Cai stayed at the museum's boathouse for over a month. It was then he developed an interest in the history and seafaring traditions of the Vikings.
Cai Guo-Qiang was born in 1957 in Quanzhou, Fujian Province, China. Trained in stage design at the Shanghai Theater Academy, his work has since crossed multiple mediums within art, including drawing, installation, video and performance. While living in Japan from 1986 to 1995, he explored the properties of gunpowder in his drawings, an inquiry that eventually led to his experimentation with explosives on a massive scale and to the development of his signature explosion events. Drawing upon Eastern philosophy and contemporary social issues as a conceptual basis, these projects aim to establish an exchange between viewers and the larger universe around them, utilizing a site-specific approach to culture and history.
Cai was awarded the Golden Lion at the 48th Venice Biennale in 1999, the 7th Hiroshima Art Prize in 2007, and the 20th Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize in 2009. He also served as Director of Visual and Special Effects for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Recently his first ever solo exhibition in a Middle Eastern country, Cai Guo-Qiang: Saraab opened in December 2011 in Doha, Qatar. In spring 2012, the artist appeared in two solo exhibitions: Cai Guo-Qiang: Sky Ladder (Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles) and Cai Guo-Qiang: Spring (Zhejiang Art Museum, Hangzhou, China). He currently lives and works in New York.
Faurschou Foundation is a privately funded art institution in Copenhagen and Beijing established by Luise and Jens Faurschou. For 25 years they have mounted exhibitions of internationally recognized artists both in Denmark and abroad. Over the years Luise and Jens Faurschou have assembled a substantial art collection and their ambition is to present highly esteemed contemporary art to the public - out of a belief in the potential of art to create meaning for the self-understanding and development of the individual as well as society. Both exhibition spaces are free and open to the public.
Images of Cai's Visit to Denmark
Images of the Gunpowder Drawing Process
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