An Event Report about Visiting Specific Exhibition
Some exhibitions make one to remember them for a long time and turn to those memories again and again. Such is the exhibition of Cai Guo-Qiang that was titled Falling Back to Earth at the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane in the 2013 year. There were only a few installations, but all of them had a deep sense and made visitors think about the author’s ideas. The general idea of the exhibition is ecological. It is, but it seems that Falling Back to Earth also can have other meanings. They are hidden at first but can become evident when a person starts to think about the installation he or she is viewing.
Before start to consider the exhibition, it seems necessary to pay attention to the author of the installations and his view on his works. Cai Guo-Qiang, who currently lives and works in New York, was born in China and trained in stage design at the Shanghai Theater Academy (“Artist’s Bio | Cai Guo-Qiang”). Telling about the title of the exhibition – Falling Back to Earth – Cai Guo-Qiang said he was inspired by fourth-century poet Tao Yuanming’s well-known prose poem, Ah, homeward bound I go! (Bunyan). Guo-Qiang said that “The text captures the concept behind the exhibition, and expresses the idea of going home, returning to the harmonious relationship between man and nature, and re-embracing the tranquillity in the landscape” (Bunyan). In this way, the title of the exhibition has to emphasize the ecological point of the installations. However, except the author’s and clearest ideas modern art almost always can have some hidden meanings. It is opened to the recipient’s interpretations. This statement is correct concerning Falling Back to Earth. In an interview for The Guardian Cai Guo-Qiang noticed about the exhibition: “When I first conceived this work I thought it would be related to environmental issues that we have here on Earth. But once the work was finished I realized that it relates to broader issues, such as our position within the universe” (Frost). One can understand that human position within the universe is a broad topic and thereby installations of Falling Back to Earth can have many different interpretations. It seems to be a positive position because being opened for interpretations, the modern art and exhibition Falling Back to Earth, in particular, make people not only think about some important topic and issue but encourage the process of thinking in general, that is very important in the time when people are used to ready answers and information.
One of the installations of the exhibition is titled the Head On. It is a pack of wolves figures (full-sized and made quite naturalistically) in three lines that are jumping and crashing into the glass. Some of the figures are pushed to the glass, and some are lying down below the glass, some are standing like they are walking away from it. As it was already mentioned above, this installation can have different meanings. One can consider the most literal sense of it when the wolves will be just the wolves or wild animals in general. However, even in such interpretation, the glass will have metaphorical meaning. Taking into account the ecological item of the whole exhibition, the glass can be considered as human impact on wild animals.
On the one hand, it seems to be positive because wolves seem to be quite aggressive. In this way, humanity is just protecting itself. On the other hand, it is known fact about the negative impact of humanity on wild animals, not only wolves. One can notice that wolves in the installation do not stay near the glass and roaring at it. They are pressed to the glass, crushed. They are turning and walking away from it. They know that they could not defeat the glass. In this way, it can be shown that humanity not only protecting itself from the wild danger but also have a negative impact on wild animals. They are crushed by humanity.
One more installation is titled the Heritage. In this installation figures of many different animals, adult and young, are standing around the made lake and bent over to drink the clear water of the lake. According to Bunyan, there are ninety-nine animals in the Heritage. All of them, predators and herbivores, are calm, they do not show any aggression or fear of each other. On the one hand, the idea of installation is ecological, and it shows the diversity of animals, the beauty of nature in faces of the wild animals. There is also can be seen the issue of the relationship between humanity and nature. The water in the lake is clear, while the issue of water pollution is well-known and it is happening because of humanity. There are many different animals around the lake, while it is known that some species are dying about because of human activity. On the other hand, animals also can be a metaphor for people. Different animals are drinking from the lake being calm. It seems that they know that there are some more essential needs than their strife. In this way, the artist could show the suit which humanity could follow. There could be positive results if humanity will concentrate on world problems and resolve them instead of being busy with internecine strifes. In this way, Guo-Qiang can invoke people to the harmony between each other and between humanity and the wild world.
There was one more installation, titled the Eucalyptus. It was the giant eucalyptus tree with the root which lies on the side. There are wooden stools near the tree on which people can sit. As the Frost noticed “visitors are encouraged to contemplate nature through Eucalyptus giant dead tree and to write down on a piece of paper what good purpose the timber might be used for once the show finishes in May.” The ecological idea of the exhibition can be the clearest with Eucalyptus. A Fallen tree is a symbol of defeated nature. The tree can be a place where birds and some animals live, and at the same time, it gives food for them.
In contrast, it proposes only stools for people. What is more critical – trees produce air which is necessary for a life of people and animals. However, it is known that deforestation is an actual world issue. Even though trees are essential for the maintenance of life on the planet, people do not pay the necessary attention to this issue and its solution. Guo-Qiang showed tree to the visitors as the most obvious pointer to the ecological problem. Giving the visitors the possibility to decide what to do with the tree after the exhibition will end is like allowing them to try to find the solution for the issue that the world has.
One more installation was one more fallen tree with wooden stools near it, where the visitors could sample the tea. It must not be accidental that the author as if repeating the Eucalyptus in Tea Pavilion, putting there one more fallen tree. Sampling tea has to make visitors stop in the one location for a little while, and they see fallen tree there. In the context of the exhibition fallen tree can hardly make one think about the usual state of affairs when trees fall because they are old. It is instead the point of human intervention. What is essential, in the contrast of Eucalyptus, the tree of Tea Pavilion have no root. It is chopped down. In this way Guo-Qiang one more time points the ecological problem of the world.
The exhibition of Cai Guo-Qiang Falling Back to Earth had only a few installations. However, each of them has a deep sense and points to the critical world problem. What is essential, the installations are opened for interpretations. Considering the most apparent ideas that can be seen viewing the installations one can say that they are about ecological issues of the world and issues of people interaction between each other and with wild nature. However, even though above were shown only the clearest ideas that can be related to installations, after some thinking one can find some other meanings of the installations. In any way, the exhibition of Cai Guo-Qiang has a deep sense, and visitors can remember it for a long time.
“Artist’s Bio | Cai Guo-Qiang.” Caiguoqiang.Com, 2017, http://caiguoqiang.com/artists-bio.
Bunyan, Marcus. “Exhibition: ‘Cai Guo-Qiang: Falling Back to Earth’ at The Gallery of Modern Art (Goma), Brisbane” Artblart.Com, 2014, https://artblart.com/tag/gallery-of-modern-art-brisbane/.
Frost, Andrew. “Falling Back To Earth: A Simple Message Of Survival.” The Guardian, 2013, https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/nov/27/falling-back-to-earth-a-simple-message-of-survival.