cai guo-qiang has created a site-specific work for the UNESCO world heritage site nijo castle in kyoto, japan. the artwork is part of the ‘asia corridor contemporary art exhibition’ on view in the city from now through october 15th, 2017. in this installation, the artist has combined a traditional wooden ship, five full-sized pine trees, and a collection of carefully selected boulders.

cai guo-qiang bonsai ship
the artwork’s overall tranquility does not distract from the beauty of the surrounding 17th century architecture
image courtesy of cai studio

 

 

located in the castle site’s central courtyard, the 12 meter bonsai display draws a viewer’s attention — but the artwork’s materials and overall tranquility do not distract from the beauty of the surrounding 17th century architecture. the ship, itself, originates from one of cai guo-qiang’s earlier projects, titled ‘to build a ship.’ this project took place at todai-ji temple in nara, japan in 2016 and was a performance piece. the audience was meant to watch a team of chinese shipbuilders construct a 13-meter, wooden boat. after it was finished, the vessel was placed in todai-ji’s mirror pond. 

cai guo-qiang bonsai ship
the artist has combined a traditional wooden ship, five full-sized pine trees, and carefully selected, boulders
image by tatsumi masatoshi

 

 

the inspiration for ‘bonsai ship’ for the asia corridor contemporary art exhibition originates from traditional shanshui ink wash, landscape paintings. originally a chinese traditional art form, the style spread throughout asia. the installation calls into question current perceptions of east asian cultural identity by melding the new and the old. ‘to build a ship’ has now been fully incorporated into this 2017 installation, which also questions present relations between east asian cultures. the project states: ‘taking a humorous tone, it asks: ‘the spirit of eastern philosophy and the ambitions of peace embodied by the culture city of east asia — are these simply an immense bonsai display?’…’can we continue sailing in this ship together?”

cai guo-qiang bonsai ship
the inspiration for ‘bonsai ship’ originates from traditional shanshui ink wash, landscape paintings
image by lin king

cai guo-qiang bonsai ship
the installation calls into question current perceptions of east asian cultural identity
image by cai studio

cai guo-qiang bonsai ship
the work asks the question, ‘can we continue sailing in this ship together?’
image by cai studio

cai guo-qiang bonsai ship
the installation is part of the ‘asia corridor contemporary art exhibition’ on view in the city until mid-november
image by cai studio

cai guo-qiang bonsai ship
the artist also completed an ink sketch of his final vision
image by cai studio

cai guo-qiang bonsai ship
the 2016 performance piece titled ‘to build a ship’ took place at todai-ji temple in nara japan
image by tatsumi masatochi 

cai guo-qiang bonsai ship
after the boat was initially constructed, the vessel floated in todai-ji’s mirror pond
image courtesy of culture city of east asia 2016 nara

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