On Display: GOMA, Gallery 1.1
Heritage 2013 creates a seemingly utopian situation based on tolerance and trust, where all types of animals have come together to share a common space. It features diverse, life-sized, artificial animals, appearing to drink from a large pool of water that is surrounded by pristine white sand.
The work symbolises Cai Guo-Qiang’s perception of Queensland as a paradise on earth, where unspoiled, ancient landscapes still exist and cultural diversity is promoted. Heritage presents a message of hope through his romantic vision. However, the work may just as easily convey a sense of hopelessness, portraying animals who, despite their instincts, must share this pool of water to survive.
The inspiration for Heritage came partly from the artist’s immersion in the Australian landscape: Cai visited Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island) and while he was there he met with members of the Quandamooka community, who are its traditional owners.
New York-based artist Cai Guo-Qiang (pronounced tsai gwo-chang) is a remarkable and inventive figure on the contemporary international art scene. Having grown up in China during the Cultural Revolution, Cai was introduced to art and literature by his father. Since the early 1990s, Cai has staged large-scale events that involve fireworks and gunpowder, as well as ambitious and complex installations in museums around the world.
Throughout his career, Cai has made art that reflects his concern for humanity, and his works have appeared in major galleries around the world. He has a long history of engagement with the Queensland Art Gallery, having exhibited commissioned works in two Asia Pacific Triennials of Contemporary Art (APT) in 1996 and 1999, and more recently was the focus of a major solo exhibition at GOMA, ‘Cai Guo-Qiang: Falling Back to Earth’ (2013–14).
1. Can you identify any of the animals in Heritage? Do you think you would see these animals together like this in nature? In small groups, discuss why the animals have gathered at this place.
2. A single drop of water activates the pool. What effect does this have? What do you think the drop represents?
3. Cai’s works are created in response to local conditions so that they are specific to the place where they are displayed. What about the social, political, historical, and cultural contexts of Queensland does Heritage respond to?
1. Write a short story inspired by Heritage. Illustrate this as a storyboard comprised of nine cells.
2. Cai often uses animals, arranged in narrative tableaus, to show humanity’s separation from nature. Choose three animals that appear in Heritage and create your own tableau that expresses what this idea means to you.
3. Heritage is inspired by Cai’s perception of Queensland as a paradise. Design what your own version of a paradise would look like. Explain and justify the features you have chosen.