Cai Guo-Qiang

1040M Underground

16 August  –  13 November 2011

Monuments on Shoulders at IZOLYATSIA Gallery

Monuments on Shoulders, is a gunpowder drawing installation housed in the main gallery. The entire gunpowder drawing making process took place in front of a live audience. Cai first led nine local Socialist Realist painters to sketch 27 mine workers’ portraits in the lobbies of the salt and coal mines. Volunteers then helped carve the images into stencils and Cai spread different grades and grains of gunpowder onto the canvases according to different effects he wished to achieve. All 27 portraits were ignited. The finished gunpowder drawings were mounted on frames identical to the ones used to hold the portraits of Soviet leaders in propaganda parades, spreading across a mound of coal to the left and a slope of salt to the right in the gallery. The drawings are lit with mining lamps, hanging from the ceiling like stars.


Nursery Rhymes at Warehouse №2

Nursery Rhymes, the second component of the exhibition, is situated in the remnants of a factory building, which suffered from an extensive fire. When visitors enter the space, they are instantly drawn to the soot-covered interior of the building. Under dim lighting, nine used mining carts line up as if meandering down the track in the tunnel, rocking slowly like cradles. Each “cradle” contains a projection on the canopy: Ukrainian folk songs, Soviet era athletes and other role models, communist propaganda films, documentaries on the glorified lives of miners, and Socialist period art films. Along the sides of the canopy hang salvaged objects from the days of the factory, such as old musical instruments from the factory club, tiny chess boards from the factory kindergarden, and old workers’ uniforms and tools, all rocking along like a child’s mobile.