Skip to content

Mystery Circle By Cai Guo-Qiang

Wait. Have I got this right? Is he gonna shoot the fireworks at us?

That was the general concern on Saturday 7th April 2012 as the world-famous Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang readied his explosion show outside the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. After all, fireworks should go up, vertical, away from people - not towards them!

But Cai didn't get his reputation as a world-renowned pyro artist by doing what’s expected. “Mystery Circle” would be no exception.

“You will witness something remarkable,” said Jeffrey Deitch, MOCA’s director, in his short opening remarks. He added, “It’s going to go by very quickly. Make sure you don’t miss it”.

You couldn't if you tried. Around 1940 the sky rapidly darkened, the 2-minute warning was given, then it was 1 minute, 30 seconds, 10 seconds, a spirited countdown and then boom.

40,000 rockets, arranged on the northern wall of the Geffen Contemporary in a crop circle-like pattern, exploded outward in a massive display of light, heat and sound. The packed crowd gathered just a little to the side and at a safe distance away, went wild. Most cheered ecstatically; though many were seen to duck and cover.

“I think I pulled a muscle,” said one, straightening up after the explosion nearly toppled her. “It looked like a firework was about to hit me in the face!

But it wasn't over. As the remnants of the crop circles burned on the wall, greenish UFO spinners were launched and, in the final phase, the headpiece of an alien god figure ignited in a finale of explosions. The whole shebang, part of the Cai’s lifelong project to connect with space and extraterrestrials through art, lasted a little under 2 minutes.

Everything might not have gone off exactly as planned, some people were left wondering whether the UFOs actually achieved lift off, but that’s part of Cai’s process: preparing meticulously, but accepting the unexpected.

Cai, who directed the visual and special effects for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, still remembers his first time launching a single rocket at a canvas, when he was a young artist in the early 1980's.

“Never did I think that 30 years later”, Cai said through a translator Saturday night, “I’d be using 40,000 rockets and lighting them off all at the same time”.

Here is more of Cai Guo-Qiang amazing work:

Painting With Fireworks -

Gunpowder Creates A Beautiful Piece Of Artwork -

Qatar In Biggest Ever Daytime Fireworks Show -

Previous article How Sparklers Are Made

Leave a comment

Comments must be approved before appearing

* Required fields