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Cai Guo-Qiang: Sleepwalking in the Forbidden City

, Museum of Art Pudong, Shanghai

Cai Guo-Qiang’s widely acclaimed first-ever VR work, Sleepwalking in the Forbidden City will be touring with the artist’s major exhibition, Odyssey and Homecoming, as part of the inaugural program at the Museum of Art Pudong (MAP) in Shanghai, on view from 8 July 2021 to 7 March 2022.

Comprised of a large-scale alabaster model of the Forbidden City, a richly layered gunpower drawing and the VR film, Sleepwalking in the Forbidden City is installed on the 2nd floor of the 40,000 square-meter museum space, allowing visitors to embark on a dreamlike journey. The 8-minute VR artwork is created in partnership with VIVE Arts, using a unique production process, which incorporates 3D scanning and modeling, 360° filming, and CG technologies. Wearing the VR headset, the audiences can travel through a space-time tunnel, entering the empty alabaster Forbidden Palace to witness the magnificent daytime firework ceremony that would have taken place at the palace's completion. 

Using the ancient medium of gunpowder, the artist challenges the adaptability, control and precision associated with VR technology, imbuing the virtual world with the authentic touch of artisanship and explosive energy of the fireworks. 

Cai Guo-Qiang says, “I grafted different languages and mediums together despite being raw and contradictory. The conceptual quality born from the collaging and conflicting of different languages is more important to me as an artist.”

Image credit: Stills for VR work Sleepwalking in the Forbidden City, courtesy CaiStudio

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