Myth - Shooting the Suns (Lot 1527), produced in 1994 is the work No. 21 in Cai's Projects for extraterrestrials series. Upon the invitation to the exhibition Heart of Darkness by Kr?ller-M?ller Museum, Otterlo, Cai worked on the commissioned firework performance in the Nationale Park De Hoge Veluwe for the exhibition opening. Following a recurring work method developed before each performance since 1989, Cai conducted a small-scale firework test on paper inside the museum. The resulted gunpowder drawing is the artwork presented in this auction. Borrowing the concept of the Big Bang theory from Belgian physicist Georges Lema?tre, Cai 'drew' a big fireball with firework to create the imagery of the origin of the universe and life forms on paper. Meanwhile, he introduced the element of Chinese mythology "Houyi Shot the Suns" into this work, by shooting the fireball with an arrow to begin the explosion. The Big Bang theory is a scientific speculation to investigate the origin of the universe with the premise that the universe was initially an extremely condensed heat coming from nothingness, and the Big Bang was an explosion, or rather, a speedy expansion to allow matters to take forms in their ceaseless cooling and expansion process.
Cai contextualized the theme with ancient mythology, which was based on human's romanticized curiosity toward the outer space and the beginning of the universe, and also grounded on a 'scientific' premise in this work. Complied in the Western Han Dynasty, Huainanzi was the book featuring this story in which it recorded that in the time of emperor Yao, God had ten sons in the form of golden ravens. They took turn to fly in the sky and brought light and heat to people every day. One day, these ten naughty ravens played around altogether in the sky, and generated enormous heat to burn the earth. Emperor Yao saw people's sufferings, and assigned warrior Houyi to shoot down nine suns. The disaster ended, and it became a well-known story passed down from generation to generation in China. Chinese were imprinted with this collective memory before the discovery of the Big Bang theory in the 20th century. Cai Guo-Qiang would like to share this ancient Chinese cosmology and romantic fantasy with alien life forms billions light years apart from us. Hence, he envisioned it by exploding nine upside-down giant trees with fireballs on the top, with 50kg explosives and a 3,500-meter long fuse in the performance based in the modern Netherlands. The medium of firework, an invention from ancient China, in Cai's oeuvre bridges the cultural differences between the east and the West as a legacy of human history through this reenactment of the Big Bang-the genesis of universe.
The Projects for Extraterrestrials series comprises a total of 33 works, beginning with "No. 0" and concluding with "No. 32". The series as a whole represents a high point in the realization of Cai's creative direction the 1990s. These works have a magnificent, imposing energy and grandeur of conception that speaks to the ages; in them, Cai introduces the idea of aliens as an imaginary audience for his art and the history of the earth to these distant watchers, in order to stimulate exchanges and dialogues between us. Each of the works explores a theme associated with natural phenomena of the earth, the universe, or ancient and modern civilizations. As Cai recreates these ideas through his explosive art, exploring the earth's history and civilization, he urges viewers to leave behind individual dispositions and look at the spectacles of primordial chaos and creation, offering them new perspectives on the universe, nature and the traces of life on earth.