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Cai Guo-Qiang, one of the most creative artists of contemporaneity and the maximum creator of fireworks in the world, designed and performed in South America its first event and ephemeral work of art. For the first time also the tango was his source, referring to the dance and music on the waters of the Riachuelo.
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Life is a milonga
Perhaps there is no more perfect phrase that the first sentence of tango Melodía de arrabal:”Neighborhood silvered by the moon”. All the deep spirit of tango lies in that phrase. The neighborhood and the moon. Neighborhood and night. Night silvered by the moon. Because tango is the son of the night and the neighborhood. The tango is the son of the moon. So it is immortal.
Some factsA magical sound, deep tanguero sound, the sound of old, eternal suburbian spirit engulfed thousands of people on Saturday January 24th 2015. At about 8 pm they met at Vuelta de Rocha, La Boca, where there was a platform of three thousand square meters, to see how a group of experts in pyrotechnics assembled an exceptional and ephemeral work of art, created by the Chinese Cai Guo-Qiang: Life is a milonga: tango in fireworks for Argentina (La vida es una milonga: tango en fuegos artificales para Argentina). A show of eighty minutes long or, in technical terms, of forty-three thousand shots that reached its peak in 160 meters.
• Platform: 3.000 square meters
• Duration of the show: 80’
• Shots: 43.810 up to 160 meters – It smelled of salt because the fireworks were made with sustainable materials.
The night of Buenos Aires had an ideal temperature: the warm summer was not fogged by moisture. Speakers and giant screens summoned to dance tango to the beat of the music.
The faces were illuminated, but not by moonlight, when finally at about 9:30 pm all started. The night was filled with applause and cheers to the sky, to something they were not mere fireworks, but a complex work of art that conveys emotions and moments of Argentine tango. Fun fact: the fires smelled of salt, because they were made of environmentally sustainable materials.
The work began with La Cumparsita (Gerardo Matos Rodríguez), which was offered in different versions, and concluded with Vuelvo al Sur (I return to the South), by Ástor Piazzolla and Fernando ‘Pino’ Solanas, piece that perhaps summarizes the feelings of the Chinese artist, impressed by our country: “Vuelvo al Sur / como se vuelve siempre al amor. / Vuelvo a vos / con mi deseo, con mi temor” (l return to the South / like one always returns to love. / I return to you / with my longing, with my fear).
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The dancer and teacher José Garofalo was summoned to translate through the dance the concept of Cai. With long experience in production of shows and festivals of tango, Garofalo proposed some variants and called the dancers. Thus, under his coordination, the stage was shared by members of Corporation Tangos, Lautaro Cancela and Jorgelina Guzzi, Paula Ferrío and José himself who, after closing the show, said: “It was an artistic encounter. It was an honor to participate and be an inspiration for the tango triptych and the performance Life is a milonga” ( Read The experience below. ).
The show was divided into four chapters. The Chinese artist who dazzled the world with the special effects of the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008, provides a short guide for the public to know how to understand the meaning of colors of fireworks: “Fears are white; conflicts and terror, black; and variety of colors will be for the most romantic music. For Vuelvo al Sur (I return to the South) will predominate blue and white, like an echo of the Argentina flag.”
As in the milongas, there were tandas (sets) of four musical pieces. Each segment was concentrated in a period: 1890-1943, 1943-1955, 1955-1983 and from 1983 until today. From his computer and wireless connections, Cai ignited 43,810 explosives inside steel tubes located in huge platforms mounted on the water.
The artist invited people to dance during the second and third work of each tanda, although there was little room to move. Finally, when the sky stopped burning, the public began to retreat having witnessed a unique and unrepeatable artistic event.
Over an idea of the Fundación Proa, Life is a milonga: tango in fireworks for Argentina had the organization and production of Funcación Alon para las Artes and the collaboration of the Government of the City of Buenos Aires.
by José Garófalo
Despite being held in Spanish, our first communication was what we call a Chinese program*: In four days we had to assemble 80 choreographies for 4 pairs of dancers, give a historical tango class and record it all on video with an overhead camera. I was overwhelmed but then thought it was obviously a communication error since that realization was impossible. Therefore I started to put together a workable plan.
The most important thing was to convey to Cai the essential characteristics of the dance and music of tango. Luckily Omar Viola and Federico Elguero were as advisors. I called Paula Ferrío and we gave a memorable theoretical and practical class in the sense that we break with all preconceptions. The climate of solemnity to address a project of this size with eight cameras filming everything we said plus three translators went slack immediately.
From that moment empathy was in crescendo. The record was marathonic but the idea of improvisation was already understood. Therefore, and due to the vicissitudes of Argentina, the show was finally called Impromptu.
The second stage of the project took place in January 2014. It was called Life is a milonga (La vida es una milonga) and consisted of making fireworks in coordination with improvisation, choreography and music that were recorded in June 2014.
As balance of this amazing art experience in which we had the honor and pleasure of participating remains the possibility of encountering one of the most interesting international contemporary artists of this era and friendship expressed through his work and his respect for our culture. •
* A Chinese program: popular expression, it means that something is very complex.
Born: December 8, 1957 in Quanzhou City, Fujian Province, China
Education: Department of Stage Design, Shangai Theater Academy, Shangai, China
Residence: 1986-1995 Tokyo, Japan / 1995-present New York, U.S.A. .
- 1995 – Japan Cultural Design Prize, Tokyo, Japan
- 1995-1996 – P.S.1 The Institute for Contemporary Art: National and International Studio Program, Asian Cultural Council Grant, New York, USA
- 1997 – Oribe Award, Gifu, Japan
- 1999 – Golden Lion, 48th Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy
- 2001 – CalArts/Alpert Award in the Arts, Valencia, USA
- 2001 – Best Monographic Museum Show (for Inopportune) and Best Installation or Single Work in a Museum (for Inopportune: Stage One)
- 2005 – International Association of Art Critics, United States Section, New England Chapter
- 2007 – Hiroshima Art Prize, Hiroshima City Culture Foundation, Hiroshima, Japan
- 2009 – 20th Fukuoka Prize for Arts and Culture, Fukuoka, Japan
- 2010 – First Place for Best Project in a Public Space (for Fallen Blossoms), AICA
- 2012 – 24th Praemium Imperiale – Lifetime Achievement in the Arts (Painting), Tokyo, Japan
- 2012 – U.S. Department of State – Medal of Arts, Washington, DC
Solo exhibitions inArgentina / Australia / Austria / Belgium / Brazil / Canada / China / Denmark / France / Italy / Japan / Mexico / Poland / Qatar / Scotland / Singapore / Tanzania / Ukraine / United Kingdom / United States
Full CVFind group exhibitions, exhibitions curated by Cai, public art, explosion events and other ephemeral projects in the following files (pdf):
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