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Documentary shines spotlight on Olympic 'footprints' artist

By Xu Fan (China Daily)    10:05, June 29, 2017

The semi-biographical documentary Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-qiang features Sky Ladder, a work by Cai using gunpowder, part of his Projects for Extraterrestrials. Photos provided to China Daily

Cai Guo-qiang is probably best known for designing the 2008 Olympic Games "giant footprints", 29 such-shaped fireworks lighting up the Beijing sky to celebrate the opening ceremony. The spectacle was watched by 2 billion people across the world. But this is not his only claim to fame.

In a semi-biographical documentary film Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-qiang, the 59-year-old artist reveals his dream project.

In a fishing village nestled in his hometown Quanzhou, in Fujian province, Cai ignites a 500-meter-long ladder made of rope and gunpowder. The ladder shimmers in the sky when it is carried high by a giant hot air balloon.

It's Cai's work Sky Ladder, part of his Projects for Extraterrestrials, which he began in 1990.

Using fireworks, Cai says he wants to explore the links between humankind and the unseen world.

The Sky Ladder work failed three times. It was set to take off from either Bath (United Kingdom), Beijing or Los Angeles (United States), but it was not possible either due to bad weather or security reasons.

"Many people tried to persuade me to quit. But I persisted. It's a tribute to my 100-year-old grandmother," says Cai in Shanghai, where the documentary was screened recently.

For the New York-based artist, the screening was also a chance for his grandmother-the first in his family to believe in his ability-to see his dream project.

On June 15, 2015, the documentary was watched upon its completion by a small group of participants and local villagers.


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