Daring to Dream

14:02, May 10, 2010      

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<center class="t091105">A helicopter made by Xu Bin from Zhejiang.

Revealing the creativity, humility and importance of China's farm laborers, artist Cai Guoqiang's latest work took more than six years to compile and comprising of farmers' innovative inventions, stands in stark contrast with his popular mega-scale productions.

Cai Guo-Qiang: Peasant Da Vincis, a collection of over 60 inventions made by 12 ordinary farmers, opened Tuesday at Rockbund Art Museum in Shanghai. The exhibition is designed to discuss such social issues as the creativity of farmers and farm laborers in China, their contributions to modernization and the reality of their situation today.

Peasant Da Vincis strikes a very different note from Cai's recent works in China, which have mostly been large government commissions, such as the firework performances for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

"Though the exhibition is concurrent with World Expo, I am participating purely in a private capacity, casting my eyes on the countryside of China and the lives of ordinary citizens with a more humble approach," Cai told the Global Times at the exhibition's opening.

Born in a small rural town himself, Cai is the collector, curator and artist of the exhibition. He said that in the beginning he considered farmers' inventions to be simply amusing until he saw a photograph of Twilight No. 1, a submarine built by Anhui farmer Li Yuming, at the end of 2004. Cai was so impressed that he acquired the submarine and it became the very first piece in his collection. Since then, Cai has traveled across eight provinces and covered more than 9,000 kilometers to collect new inventions that reflect the inventors' creativity and dreams.

The exhibition begins with a flying saucer hovering above the museum and three slogans written in giant characters on the building's exterior.

The written words "never learned how to land" are derived from saucer-maker Du Wenda's sole intent to make his invention fly and hints at the anxiety behind China's rapid economic development.

"What's important isn't whether you can fly" is a response to the ambivalent dreams and pursuit of material goods among people today, while "Farmers - Making a better city, a better life," borrows from World Expo in Shanghai's slogan as the exhibition's catchphrase.

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