Cai Guo-Qiang in conversation with Wu Hung
Artist Cai Guo-Qiang in conversation with Wu Hung, Harrie A. Vanderstappen Distinguished Service Professor of Art History, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, and the College; Director of the Center for the Art of East Asia; and Consulting Curator at the Smart Museum of Art.
Born in Guanzhou near the Taiwan Straits in 1957, Cai began painting with gunpowder in 1986, a material whose destructive and creative potential makes it a perfect analog for nuclear fission. His artistic experimentation with the form of the mushroom cloud grew out of this work, and he began making small mushroom clouds from a hand-held mortar at meaningful locations, including the Nevada Test Site and the Statue of Liberty. Cai’s mushroom clouds take nuclear energy’s most destructive form and animate it with sublime visual pleasure, demanding we confront the duality of the power unlocked in 1942.