Cai Guo-Qiang has a history of making works of extraordinary beauty from violent beginnings; most famously using gunpowder, fireworks and explosions. Of his sculptural installations, Cai’s Inopportune: Stage One (2004) is one of the most challenging and spectacular. The installation of nine cars appears arrested in an animated sequence of explosion; each identical white vehicle frozen in an arc of detonation, blast, launch, tumbling, gravitational return, and rest. The cars are pierced with pulsing rods of light that simultaneously suspend the cars like wings and penetrate them like blades, signifying a coexisting violence and beauty.
This work, along with a related video installation Illusion (2004), showing a car that appears to blow up while ghosting through New York’s Times Square, dominated the vast Turbine Shop on Cockatoo Island, for the 17th Biennale of Sydney (2010).
Cai Guo-Qiang, Inopportune: Stage One, 2004, nine cars and sequenced multi-channel light tubes, dimensions variable. Installation view of the 17th Biennale of Sydney (2010) at Cockatoo Island. Gift of Robert M. Arnold, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum, 2006.1 (Exhibition Copy) The presentation of this project was made possible with assistance from Shiseido. Photograph: Ben Symons