April 2, 2003 - S.M.A.K. - Cai Guo-Qiang at S.M.A.K.
April 2, 2003

Cai Guo-Qiang at S.M.A.K.

Cai Guo-Qiang
An Arbitrary History

29/03/2003 - 01/06/2003

S.M.A.K.(Museum of Contemporary Art in Ghent)
9000 Gent
Mon Sun 10 am. -8 pm.


S.M.A.K. (Museum of Contemporary Art in Ghent) presents the solo exhibition An Arbitrary History of the Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang.

The thread running through Cais diverse, eclectic body of work is his constant search for mans place in the natural and social universe. The fundamental idea behind his work has been the derivation of power and energy from nature. In this he allots an important role to chance or what is beyond our control. In his work Cai confronts aggressive elements with gentle facets. He aims to make art that is both universal and intimate.

The exhibition An Arbitrary History at S.M.A.K. brings together many of his works from recent years. Starting with the idea of a retrospective exhibition with a multitude of works of art, this idea will be activated by Cai and placed inside a new, all-embracing installation. The basic idea is of the museum as an amusement park, where people are brought into contact with art in a manner that is relaxed and pleasant. Two total installations will be set up, running through several rooms of the museum. An Arbitrary History: River meanders through the gallery in a bed made of bamboo. Cai asks the visitor to sit in a boat and experience the exhibition as he sails down a river of bamboo. All along the river one sees works by the artist, which have been suspended in space. Along the river we see a collection of curiosities, a collection of objects from the Far East in the middle of which the visitor is trapped for a few minutes – even if voluntarily.

The second installation is An Arbitrary History: RollerCoaster, a metal structure with a little cart for the visitor to sit in; it is a simplified version of the big dipper one usually sees at a funfair. A large fabric with reproductions of so-called icons of Belgian art history is suspended above this route.

Sitting in the carts or boats is the only way one can acquire insight into the alienating world the artist has built up. Everything there is to be seen takes place above our heads. Cai deconstructs the traditional exhibition space and changes the passive way in which we usually look at art. The artist asks us to go on a voyage of initiation through his world of arbitrary interpretation of history – his own and that of the host country. Thereby, he is aware that his artworks are differently looked at and interpreted, depending on the cultural and social context in which they are shown.

Parallel to River and Rollercoaster the museum presents two monumental sculptures in the entrance hall of the museum, including a gigantic upside down boat pierced by numerous oars and spears. Modeled after a Roman battle boat, and like an eagle spreading its wings, the boat is completed with a fan and EU flag and entitled The Eagle Has Arrived! During the opening ceremony the performance Inheritance: exploding Jan Hoets portrait, a tribute to Jan Hoet on the wall above the information desk of the museum.

You can visit the exhibition An Arbitrary History at S.M.A.K. until June 1st 2003.

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