In conjunction with the Association for Public Art’s world premiere of Fireflies, a large-scale, interactive work by Cai Guo-Qiang on Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway, we invited the artist to talk about ephemerality in relationship to temporary public art. “Artists and their works all have limits, but…when [the work engenders] a lot of participation from the public, it can become infinite,” Cai says.
Artist Cai Guo-Qiang on ephemerality in the context of public art. Filmed at the artist's Philadelphia studio and on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway on August 11, 2017.
With Center support, the Association for Public Art commissioned Cai Guo-Qiang to create Fireflies, on view September 14–October 8, 2017, as a celebration of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway’s centennial. Composed of 27 custom pedicabs adorned with 900 luminous lanterns, Fireflies was Cai’s largest public art project in the US in a decade. Watch Cai discuss audience participation in his public art.>
Cai Guo-Qiang’s practice spans a range of media in contemporary art, including drawing, installation, video, and performance art, alongside Chinese traditions in medicine, art, and placemaking. Internationally known for his virtuosic and poetic use of fireworks and gunpowder, the artist has been honored with numerous awards, including the 48th Venice Biennale International Golden Lion Prize and the U.S. Department of State Medal of Arts. Most recently, his work has been featured in The Spirit of Painting: Cai Guo-Qiang at the Prado in Madrid, Spain. Cai is also known for his work as the Director of Visual and Special Effects for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.