In this ambitious pyrotechnic display, the artist has appropriated the Great Wall as a piece of Land Art, revitalizing one of China’s most enduring cultural icons by tapping into its perceived cosmic energy. For this work, Cai and a team of volunteers laid a ten-kilometer fuse across the barren ridges of the Gobi Desert, starting at the westernmost end of the Ming dynasty (1368–1644) wall at Jiayuguan, Gansu Province. Small charges were placed along the line at three-meter intervals, while larger charges were set at every kilometer. The fuse was ignited at dusk on February 27, 1993. The initial explosion took fifteen minutes to travel the entire length of the line and was seen by forty thousand residents and tourists. For Cai, this collective effort also subverted the Great Wall’s “original practice and ideological function.”
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Ink Art: Past as Present in Contemporary China," December 9, 2013–April 6, 2014.