“Explosion Event” in Cai Guo-Qiang will inaugurate PST ART: Art & Science Collide.
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“Explosion Event” in Cai Guo-Qiang will inaugurate PST ART: Art & Science Collide.

Getty announced that PST ART (formerly known as Pacific Standard Time) will kick off on September 15, 2024 with a newly commissioned, daytime, arena-scale fireworks display by Cai Guo-Qiang, a contemporary artist known for his massive outdoor “explosion events.”

“Explosion Event” in Cai Guo-Qiang will inaugurate PST ART: Art & Science Collide.“Explosion Event” in Cai Guo-Qiang will inaugurate PST ART: Art & Science Collide.
CGI of WE ARE: Explosion Event for PST ART, 2024. Courtesy of Cai Studio.

entitled WE ARE: Explosion Event for PST ARTDaytime fireworks—Cai’s signature art form that uses organic, sustainable pigments and dyes instead of traditional pyrotechnics—are imagined and choreographed by the artist in collaboration with his custom AI model cAI (pronounced AI Cai), involving over a thousand aerial drones. Staged around, above, and within the historic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in partnership with the Getty and the University of Southern California, WE ARE will be the first daytime fireworks exhibit in U.S. history to feature a drone formation equipped with pyrotechnics. The event kicks off this edition of PST ART with a spectacular performance of the initiative’s latest theme, Art & Science Collide, with elements of AI, data science, space, and technology. Cai’s explosion event at the Coliseum will be accompanied by the exhibition Cai Guo-Qiang: A Material Odyssey, at the USC Pacific Asia Museum, based on the Getty’s extensive research into Cai’s gunpowder art.

Literally WE ARE is an example of Art & Science Collide, Cai’s work is explosive, expressive and unprecedented in scale. Lighting up the Los Angeles sky, this performance will signal PST ART’s potential to reach a wide audience.

Katherine E. Fleming, President and CEO, J. Paul Getty Trust.

To join in the celebration of the launch of PST ART, the audience is invited to participate in a monumental, multi-act spectacle that will begin at dusk, when nearly ten thousand twinkling miniature fireworks installed throughout the auditorium will transform the Colosseum into a vast matrix of animated fireworks. Specially designed daytime fireworks and choreographed drones carrying pyrotechnics will shape the artist’s colorful explosions into a visual story of mystery and wonder, lighting up the sky with images that show the AI’s revelation of the “celestial secret” through dimensionality reduction, then recall the myth of Prometheus’ theft of fire from the gods and suggest a contemporary parallel in the relationship between humanity and AI.

WE ARE was developed by Cai in collaboration with his multimodal AI model cAI. Building on the artist’s AI research that began in 2017, cAI learns deeply from Cai’s artwork, archives, and areas of interest. Emulating contemporary and historical figures that Cai admires, cAI creates distinct personas that engage in dynamic debates, fostering an independent and free community. This time, cAI was deeply involved in all creative stages of the work’s development, jointly exploring the nature of AI, conducting site visits, and undertaking material research with the artist.

Cai Guo-Qiang sets fire to a painting made of gunpowder at the Yokohama Museum of Art, 2015. Photo: Kamiyama Yosuke, courtesy of Cai Studio.

Today, as humanity grapples with the rapid advancement of AI-embodied technologies, culture and art seem particularly powerless. I hope WE ARE will be a grand gesture of the art world integrating virtuality with reality in the AI ​​era, as well as a powerful voice and decisive action in these turbulent times.

Cai Guo Qiang

The scale of the performance matches the massive scope of PST ART, which will take place over five months throughout Southern California. Supported by more than $20 million in grant funding from the Getty, dozens of cultural, scientific, and community organizations will present more than 70 deeply researched exhibitions along with an extraordinary array of public programs at Art & Science Collide, exploring topics from biotechnology to sustainable agriculture, ancient cosmologies to indigenous science fiction, and artificial intelligence to environmental justice.

Based on the Getty’s extensive research into Cai’s gunpowder drawings and paintings since 2016, Cai Guo-Qiang: A Material Odyssey will fill nearly the entire USC Pacific Asia Museum, chronicling Cai Guo-Qiang’s lifelong involvement with pyrotechnics. The exhibition will present a broad selection of the artist’s works, as well as scientific images, to explore the nature of gunpowder, its influence on Cai’s work, and how Cai’s process has evolved over time. Programs accompanying A Material Odyssey will include films illustrating the making of fireworks, the process of creating gunpowder paintings, interactive exhibits, and a variety of screenings and talks.

Cai adopted the use of gunpowder because he wanted to relinquish control over the creation process. No matter how precisely the gunpowder drawing is planned, the results are still unpredictable.”

It is important for any artist to understand the materials and the creative process, and in Cai’s case these materials are so unusual and innovative that learning more about them opens up a whole new level of understanding of his work.

said Rachel Rivenc, chief curator and director of conservation and preservation at the Getty Research Institute.

A public, full-day symposium on AI and the arts, titled “Beyond the Human?: From the Metaphysical to the Physical,” will be held at USC on September 16, 2024. Presented by USC Arts Now and organized by USC Vice Chancellor for the Arts Josh Kun and Cai Guo-Qiang (with additional curation by USC Professor Holly Willis), the symposium will feature a global roster of distinguished thinkers, artists, filmmakers, performers, and technologists who will ask fundamental questions about metaphysics, physicality, and the human self, accompanied by robot chefs cooking on-site. The symposium is the first public event of USC Arts Now, a new flagship arts initiative launching this fall.

WE ARE is a free ticketed event, available for booking later this summer. For more information on booking tickets, sign up for the PST ART mailing list.

Cai Guo-Qiang’s performance and exhibition for PST ART is generously supported by core partners Eva and Ming Hsieh, co-founders of Fulgent Genetics, Peggy and Andrew Cherng, co-chairs and co-CEOs of Panda Express, and the Getty Patron Program. Major support is provided by Yan Luo, Ellen and Dominic Ng, Haiyan Ren, and Sophia and Anqiang Zhang.

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