Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Cai Guo-qiang seeking to bathe museum visitors in fun-filled and meaningful art experience
By Nancy T. Lu
Cai Guo-qiang, a Chinese contemporary artist often associated by the Taiwan public with explosive gunpowder art, is seeking to bathe visitors at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum in a playful art experience.
The celebrated Cai will take over the entire first and second floor of the museum on Zhongshan North Road with his retrospective grand-scale art exhibition titled “Cai Guo-qiang Hanging Out in the Museum” from November 21 this year to February 21 next year.
Cai Guo-qiang’s “Cultural Melting Bath” will literally invite visitors to dress down and soak in a water tub in pairs or groups. The set-up of this interactive installation art has not been decided in detail. A private dressing room of sorts may be necessary for individuals who will want to change into bikinis and swimming trunks first before going in for a dip. The herbal bath will combine ingredients to sum up the wonders of Chinese medicine like the enhancement of the beauty of the skin and the release of all body impurities.
Entertainment celebrities like model and actress Lin Chih-ling and television show host Tsai Kang-yong are helping drum up interest in the art happening. They may even go in for a creative splash with a dash of originality for an international artist of great stature like Cai Guo-qiang.
“Hanging Out in the Museum” will feature a total of 35 attention-grabbing works to include representative, on-site creation as well as documentation of his past pieces. The Guggenheim Museum in New York curated “Cai Guo-qiang: I Want to Believe” not too long ago and most of the works in the retrospective solo show will be seen in Taipei after traveling to the National Arts Museum of China in Beijing and the Bilbao Guggenheim Museum in Spain. In Bilbao, the exhibit successfully attracted droves of not just tourists but also local residents.
The public in Taipei will see “Head On,” highlighting 99 life-sized replicas of wolves bumping against the glass wall. The “sadness and pain” behind is what the art is about, according to Cai. “Inopportune: Stage One,” another work in the collection, will show eight cars and sequenced multi-channel light tubes. “Inopportune: Stage Two” will turn attention to nine life-sized tiger replicas, arrows, and mountain stage prop. The entire exhibit is being made possible with the support of the Eslite Corporation.
Three new works will be created for the much-awaited Taipei exhibition. Cai revealed yesterday: “I will bring in a dancer for collaboration in creating one new piece. I will get the performer to dance out moods and emotions at different hours of the day. Then from the body language of my partner in creativity, I will draw and come up with my art expression on paper, which will measure 32 meters long and 3 meters high.”
Such a project to get him to go back to drawing will be big departure from his work for the Beijing Olympic Games. He, remembered for his fireworks display, was focused then on Chinese aesthetics on a grand scale.
Cai does not like to showcase just his past creative efforts. In fact, he loves to put “art in progress” in the spotlight. The hidden risk though is to have the museum ultimately channel all resources towards new art creation, according to Cai. Such pitfall became the actual experience of the museum in New York.
The presently New York-based Cai admitted to the loneliness of an artist’s calling. And so he dreams. He as an artist goes one step further: he seeks to share his dreams.
Cai said: “I would normally live a humdrum existence, going simply from home to workplace each day. But my mind would not stop working and coming up with fun ideas.”
“Modern art is not easy to create,” said Cai. “And so I try to approach a difficult task lightly and happily. I need to step out and then go back later to see if my resulting art is meaningful.”
The 52-year-old Cai, who was born in Quanzhou, Fujian Province, has impressed writer and exhibition adviser Yang Chao as “a playful boy at heart.” This conclusion came after six months of close association.
Cai will create “Day and Night” in Hall No. 6 at the Huashan Creative Culture Park on October 17 and 18. This will be about “traces of life and feelings amid the flow of time.” Audience participation will be encouraged. The work of art will involve the mass media.