cai guo-qiang suspends 10,000 porcelain starlings over terracotta warriors in melbourne
 

cai guo-qiang suspends 10,000 porcelain starlings over terracotta warriors in melbourne

10,000 porcelain birds swarm overhead. in nature, when starlings such as these flock together like this, swooping with synchronized momentum, it is called a murmuration and for thousands of years, chinese philosophers, stoic warriors and the occasional emperor gazed up at murmurations in awe — but porcelain is white. each starling in this porcelain murmuration was first scorched black from gunpowder explosions by their creator, contemporary artist cai guo-qiang. then, they were suspended in stillness at NGV in melbourne, aside emperor qin shihuang’s army of terracotta tomb warriors.

terracotta warriors
installation view of cai guo-qiang’s murmuration (landscape) 2019 (detail)
realised in dehua, fujian province and melbourne, commissioned by the NGV
image © cai guo-qiang / photo © tobias titz photography

 

 

cai guo-qiang’s handmade murmuration undulates here and there, softly imitating the mighty face of mount li. mount li, according to chinese philospohers, was an important meridian in the region and among other things, the final resting grounds of qin shihuang and his terracotta army.

terracotta warriors
installation view of cai guo-qiang’s murmuration (landscape) 2019 (detail)
realised in dehua, fujian province and melbourne, commissioned by the NGV
image © cai guo-qiang / photo © tobias titz photography

 

 

juxtaposed together, the ancient soldiers and contemporary flock merge to form a new meridian.‘the ever-changing formation of 10,000 porcelain birds seems to embody the lingering spirits of the underground army,’ says cai guo-qiang, ‘or perhaps the haunting shadow of china’s imperial past. but in this age of globalisation, aren’t they also forming a mirage, an exoticised imagination of the cultural other?’

terracotta warriors
installation view of cai guo-qiang’s murmuration (landscape) 2019 (detail)
realised in dehua, fujian province and melbourne, commissioned by the NGV
image © cai guo-qiang / photo © tobias titz photography

 

 

in 1982, the national gallery of victoria presented the first full exhibition of china’s ancient terracotta warriors — just a few momentary years after their discovery. NGV is making history again in 2019, as the qin emperor’s terracotta army returns alongside one of china’s most celebrated contemporary artists, cai guo-qiang.

terracotta warriors
installation view of cai guo-qiang’s murmuration (landscape) 2019 (detail)
realised in dehua, fujian province and melbourne, commissioned by the NGV
image © cai guo-qiang / photo © tobias titz photography

 
installation view of cai guo-qiang’s murmuration (landscape) 2019 (detail)
realised in dehua, fujian province and melbourne, commissioned by the NGV
image © cai guo-qiang / photo © tobias titz photography

terracotta warriors
installation view of cai guo-qiang’s murmuration (landscape) 2019 (detail)
realised in dehua, fujian province and melbourne, commissioned by the NGV
image © cai guo-qiang / photo © tobias titz photography

terracotta warriors
installation view of terracotta warriors: guardians of immortality and cai guo-qiang: the transient landscape
photo © sean fennessy

terracotta warriors
image courtesy of NGV

terracotta warriors
installation view of armoured military officer
photo © sean fennessy

terracotta warriors
installation view of civil officer
photo © sean fennessy

terracotta warriors
installation view of kneeling archer
photo © sean fennessy

terracotta warriors
installation view of armoured general
photo © sean fennessy

 

 

project info:

 

exhibition: terracotta warriors: guardians of immortality and cai guo-qiang: the transient landscape

location: national gallery of victoria in melbourne

time: may 24 – october 13

photography: tobias titz and sean fennessy

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