Gunpowder, considered one of China’s most significant contributions to the world, has always fascinated Cai Guo-Qiang. Growing up, explosions from cannon blasts, artillery batteries firing into the air and festive firework displays were commonplace, and he recalls the hand of his classmates stained red from filling firecrackers in factories.
A child of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, who participated in propaganda activities, he found an outlet through the medium of gunpowder. Playing with fireworks set him free amidst the oppressive and restrictive context.
The 63-year-old artist explains, “The question is whether you use gunpowder violently or peacefully, and also whether you can liberate yourself from this very restrained society.”
He adds: “So you have a dialogue with gunpowder, and then through your work, you can find another link. Additionally, using gunpowder is in direct contrast to my father, who was a very conservative, timid intellectual. My work breaks away from that.”