Cai Guo Qiang X Wolf in sheep skin

Met Sybil for Cai Guo Qiang’s talk at NaMoS last Friday. Barely made it to my seat before Cai Guo Qiang started talking. The talk was really inspiring. You know how some artists describe their concept and vision in such a vague and ambiguous way that after sitting there for 2 hours, you leave thinking to yourself how crappy it was because there was a lot of talk but no substance.

This is not one of those talks. Ok I went one big round to say how detailed and informative the talk was. Cai Guo Qiang was born in China in the 1950s. He moved to Japan in 1986 and stayed there till 1995 before moving to New York. While in Japan, he experimented with gun powder which became his signature medium in his artworks.

If you watched the opening of the Olympics held in China, you would probably remember the breath-taking fireworks Footsteps of History where ginormous footprint-shaped fireworks ‘walk’ through China and reach the Bird Nest where the event was held.

During the talk that spanned approximately 2 hours, Cai Guo Qiang shared about his roots, his stage Design and Contemporary Art background, how he went through an experimental time where he dabbled with the different art styles.

The most enriching part personally was when he went through art works individually and talked about the idea and the message he wanted to convey in each art work. He also made it real by sharing how being an artist is a struggle between being socially responsible and yet not losing his voice as an artist.

Like a pendulum swinging side to side, the artwork that is created is the centre of the pendulum- the equilibrium of social and artistic expression.

Some of his most famous works internationally known

“Inopportune: Stage One”

Cars flipping over with multi-channel light tubes to depict sparks flying out of the cars, mimicking the scene of a car crash or a car explosion. In reference to the 911 terrorism incident.

“Borrowing Your Enemy’s Arrows”

3000 arrows stuck on a wooden Boat. A scene out of “The Three Kingdoms” where wooden boats are sent towards the enemies during a fog and the enemies out of their chaotic anxiety fired blindly towards the boats. They then pulled back the boats and collected their enemy’s arrows to be used during battle. I remembered watching this scene in a movie and marvelling at the wisdom. I guess Cai Guo Qiang was probably as awed as I am by the chinese culture.


Sybil saw this exhibition in New York a while back and according to her, it’s awesome. Apparently when she walked into the room, all she saw was a corner of the boat structure. But when she turned the corner, she saw the full scale of the boat and the white pieces pouring out of the vessel. Yet upon inspection, she sees the sea of white is actually formed by pieces and pieces of broken porcelains. How beautifully described! I can only admire it from this image above.

Also worth mentioning is how the same art installation can look different in the different locations that they are exhibited due to the different space layout of the hall.

“Heads On”

As exhibited in Germany

Below are the images I took of the exhibition here in Singapore:

Cai Guo Qiang Singapore Heads On
“Heads On”
2010, Singapore

Heads On (into the glass)
“Heads On” into the glass!

Cai Guo Qiang was using the ninety nine life sized wolves leaping towards an unseen wall to show the fierce courage and spirit of these animals. He also wants to remind us how “easily humans are blinded by a collective mindset and action and destined to repeat our mistakes to an unbelievable degree.”

Even as I was pondering how true it is that men tend to commit the same mistakes by walking into the same invisible wall in a vicious cycle, I was also struck by the fact that these wolves were made of sheep skin. How apt then that these wolves in sheep skin depict silly men who thinks they are almighty and and indestructible. The irony.

Just in case you’re wondering how Cai Guo Qiang links up with fashion, he was one of the artists to collaborate with Gap for a T-shirt collection some time back.

Cai Guo Qiang in a Gap t-shirt with his artwork. Let’s hope he does a fashion-related collaboration again soon!

X Alex

(Images from pbs, caiguoqiang, octoberonline and own photos)

About fashionartisan
Bringing out the art in fashion

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