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Explosions in the sky: Cai Guo-Qiang lures aliens to MOCA April 7*

March 7, 2012 |  4:45 pm

Explosions in the sky: Cai Guo-Qiang lures aliens to MOCA April 7

Hello? Is anyone out there? And do you like fireworks set off by world-renowned artists?

Come April 7, Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang will try to have his own close encounter of the third kind at MOCA's Geffen Contemporary. In the site-specific work, "Mystery Circle: Explosion Event for the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles," the pyrotechnically inclined artist will set off three stages of explosions, which will continue on a theme he's been long exploring: the possibility of life in outer space.

As we best understand it, the first stage of the event for museum members will involve Cai letting loose flying saucer girandolas at dusk. Those will ignite, signaling a shower of more than 30,000 mini-rockets that will form crop circles that will launch toward the audience before falling to the ground.

In the second stage, an imaginary alien-god figure (cue the sounds of ELO's "Livin' Thing" or the soaring rock opera of your choice) will appear on the wall, outlined by gunpowder fuses. At the final stage, those fuses will burn down and shoot mini-rockets into the air. The rockets will then leave a burned imprint on the museum wall, creating an outdoor drawing.

In other words, a whole bunch of stuff will be on fire. Satisfied, pyromaniacs?

Cai's prior events of the fiery kind have all been dedicated to extraterrestrials but the MOCA event marks the first time he'll evoke an alien figure. It's something like a handwritten invitation, blazing bright enough for Martian eyes: If they see their likeness, perhaps they'll feel more comfortable dropping by.

The rest of Cai's solo show will be on view at MOCA Grand Avenue from April 8 through July 30. It will also include three gunpowder drawings commissioned by MOCA, created on-site this month by Cai in collaboration with more than 100 local volunteers.

He will also install on the ceiling a field with crop circles. Handmade by hundreds of workers from Cai’s native Fujian province, the overhead hanging of the dense carpet of wheat-like stalks is supposed to suggest the perspective of aliens looking down at their handiwork on Earth. 

Cai's show is timed to complement MOCA's “Ends of the Earth” exhibition, about land art before 1974, which will show May 27 - August 20.

*Update: The original post incorrectly stated that the "Ends of Earth" exhibit would run till July 20th.


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Photo: Ignition of Cai Guo-Qiang’s gunpowder drawing "Odyssey" in Houston on October 6, 2010. Credit: I-Hua Lee, courtesy Cai Studio