Cai Guo-Qiang’s “Inopportune: Stage One” @ the SAM
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On Permanent display at the Seattle Art Museum in the main Atrium is Cai Guo-Qiang’s “Inopportune: Stage One.” The art installation is a cascade of nine white Ford Taurus’s, suspended from the museum ceiling; the cars are composed to create a cinematic progression with an “explosion,” to simulate a car bombing.
You can see each of the cars, which radiate sprays of colored lights, as a single frame in a three-dimensional movie: a single car that slowly leaps, twists and plunges. Tumbling and turning through the air, the cars create an impression of an explosion unfolding in nine frames. The splendor and grandeur of the neon explosions might seduce your eye even as the meaning of the scene eludes you entirely. Or your mind might link this glorious, violent, spectacle to the trajectory of a vehicle in the throes of a bombing.
Accompanied by the short video, “Illusion,” featuring a car blowing up while driving through Time Square in New York City, that nobody notices, crowds pass in and out as if nothing has happened, because for them, in their own private worlds, nothing has. The explosion is a confection, more Hollywood than reality. Complementary works “Inopportune: Stage One” and “Illusion” explore how images and reality blur in our unsettled world.
The result is both stunning and unnerving. As the cars linger above your head, frozen in cinematic time, making you feel that you are standing in the middle of a deadly explosion. Oddly, the colors of the neon explosion, oranges, changing to blood red, then to pastel pink and blue, are seductive and beautiful.