The opening film of Garage Screen summer cinema is the Russian premiere of Kevin Macdonald’s documentary feature Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang (2016) which portrays the life and practice of contemporary Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang, known for his spectacular installations and the use of gunpowder.
Cai Guo-Qiang (b. 1957) exhibits across the world, and has participated twice in the Venice Biennale. His installation Venice’s Rent Collection Courtyard, replicating figures from a famous sculptural ensemble of the Cultural Revolution era and depicting the sufferings of Chinese peasants before communism was established, won the International Golden Lion award at the 48th edition of the Biennale in 1999.
Gunpowder, one of the most emblematic materials in Chinese culture, plays a significant role in the artist’s practice, using it in his graphic works referencing traditional Chinese painting and calligraphy, as well as temporary installations and fireworks. For Project for Extraterrestrials no.10: Project to Add 10,000 Meters to the Great Wall of China (1993) Cai Guo-Qiang created a fire wall that visually added ten kilometers to the Wall. His fireworks also accompanied the opening and closing ceremonies at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
Kevin Macdonald’s documentary traces the artist’s practice back to 1984, when he used gunpowder for the first time. Cai Guo-Qiang speaks about the sources of his inspiration, difficulties in project realization, his father, a calligrapher, and family history, while working on his next project which was impossible to complete before—a kilometer-long fire ladder that will illuminate the sky of Guangzhou for fifteen minutes.
Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang
Director Kevin Macdonald, 76 min.