This album serves as a kind of blueprint, or proposal, for Cai’s eponymous 1993 project in which he laid a ten-thousand-meter trail of gunpowder from the western end of the Great Wall into the Gobi Desert and ignited it at dusk. It opens (on the right) with the eastern end of the Great Wall at Shanhaiguan. The multiple strands of the iconic structure are evoked by dynamic ink strokes and short, crenellated segments. Burn marks at the left end suggest Cai’s method for extending the length of the Great Wall. Here, he combines the force of his own gestures with the elemental force of ignited gunpowder, juxtaposing the controlled marks of his brush with the uncontrollable action of fire. Playing with the modern myth that the Great Wall is the only man-made construction visible from outer space, Cai’s pyrotechnic display of 1993, like this album, seeks to address a universal audience. To either side of the inked line, Cai has added cursive inscriptions that offer his musings on the project.
Signature: Inscribed by the artist
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Journeys: Mapping the Earth and Mind in Chinese Art," February 10, 2007–August 26, 2007.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Ink Art: Past as Present in Contemporary China," December 9, 2013–April 6, 2014.