Sky Ladder, realized at Huiyu Island Harbour, Quanzhou, Fujian, June 15, 2015 at 4:49 am, approximately 2 minutes and 30 seconds. Photos by Lin Yi & Wen-You Cai, courtesy Cai Studio.
In the early morning hours of June 15, a huge white balloon filled with 6,200 cubic meters of helium slowly ascended into the sky above Huiyu Island Harbour, Quanzhou, China. Attached to it was a 500-meter long ladder coated completely with quick burning fuses and gold fireworks that was then ignighted by artist Cai Guo-Qiang (previously) who has become known for his ambitious pyrotechnic artworks.
Titled Sky Ladder, the piece burned for approxmiately 2 minutes and 30 seconds above the harbor and was the fourth and final attempt to realize the performance. Guo-Qiang had earlier attempted Sky Ladder in Bath (1994), Shanghai (2001), and in Los Angeles (2012), to varying degrees of success, but never considered his vision complete until now. He first imagined a ladder of fire as a child and has pursued the idea for 21 years. He shares about this last successful iteration of the event:
Behind Sky Ladder lies a clear childhood dream of mine. Despite all life’s twists and turns, I have always been determined to realize it. My earlier proposals were either more abstract or ceremonial. Sky Ladder today is tender, and touches my heart deeply: it carries affection for my hometown, my relatives and my friends. In contrast to my other attempts, which set the ignition time at dusk, this time the ladder rose toward the morning sun, carrying hope. For me, this not only means a return but also the start of a new journey.
Unfortunately there’s no official video of the performance available yet, but a few shaky cell phone videos have emerged. You can see more images of the performance on the artist’s website. All photos by Lin Yi and Wen-You Cai courtesy Cai Studio. (via Booooooom)
In 2009, Cai Guo-Qiang was commissioned by the Philadelphia Museum of Art to create a site-specific explosion event on the front facade of the museum. The project, titled Fallen Blossoms, used a gunpowder fuse, metal net, and scaffolding to activate a blossom pattern for 60 seconds, temporarily setting the columns of the building ablaze.
The fuse for the flower was lit on December 11 at sunset for a large audience. The title for the event and corresponding exhibition is derived from a classical Chinese proverb “hua kai hua luo” which comments on the extreme loss felt when a life is ended unexpectedly. The title and event were also meant as a tribute to the Museum’s late director, Anne d’Harnoncourt.
Guo-Qiang currently lives and works in New York, but was born and trained in stage design in China. Not limited to one medium, Guo-Qiang works in installation, drawing, performance and video art. During his 9-year stay in Japan he explored the use of gunpowder in his work which eventually led to his large scale explosion events. Guo-Qiang was notably the Director of Visual and Special Effects for both the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. (via cerceos)
Flowerworks is a new series by multi-disciplinary artist Sarah Illenberg that turns flower arrangements into bursting fireworks. The photos were made in collaboration with photographer Sabrina Rynas, and if you squint your eyes a bit (or back away from the monitor) the effect is pretty uncanny. Illenberg is widely known for her work at the intersection of art, photography, and graphic design, and you can see more of her work for some of the world’s top brands and magazines in her portfolio. Fine art prints from this series are available in her shop. (via ArtChipel)
Swiss visual artist Olaf Breuning places no limits on his medium of choice, expressing his artistic vison through peformance art, sculpture, drawing, photography, installation and film. My favorite of his work are these precisely staged photos of various smoke bombs, fireworks and other colorful objects arranged on a loose framework. The pieces have occasionally been lit as part of a “happening” such as his site-specific smoke installation at Station to Station in New York. You can see much more of his photography and other art over on his website, and see a brief interview with him courtesy of the Avant/Garde Diaries.
This last 4th of July Dallas-based photographer Nick Pacione camped out below a firework show and captured these awesome shots using a macro lens. He used a special rack focus technique that changes focus during the exposure to create some wonderfully abstract images that at times don’t even look like fireworks. See more from Explosions in the Sky, and if you liked this also check out the work of David Johnson.
Filmmaker Julian Tay shot some footage of the 2012 New Years fireworks at Docklands in Melbourne, Australia and then decided to see what happened if he digitally reversed it. The result is strangely beautiful as all the little rockets move in reverse creating pretty counter-intuitive visuals, imploding into nothingness. An appropriate addendum, Reddit user ksli832 was reminded of this passage by Kurt Vonnegut from Slaughterhouse-Five:
The formation flew backwards over a German city that was in flames. The bombers opened their bomb bay doors, exerted a miraculous magnetism which shrunk the fires, gathered them into cylindrical steel containers, and lifted the containers into the bellies of the planes. The containers were stored neatly in racks… When the bombers got back to their base, the steel cylinders were taken from the racks and shipped back to the United States of America, where factories were operating night and day, dismantling the cylinders, separating the dangerous contents into minerals. Touchingly, it was mainly women who did this work. The minerals were then shipped to specialists in remote areas. It was their business to put them into the ground, to hide them cleverly, so they would never hurt anybody again.
Happy new years folks, 2013 is going to be amazing. (via laughing squid)
While attending the International Fireworks Show in Ottawa, Canada earlier this month photographer David Johnson had his camera in hand to document the night. When Spain’s entry into the competition begin he decided to try something a little different resulting in the photos you see here which are unlike any long exposure firework shots I’ve ever seen. Via email David tells me how he accomplished the effect:
The technique I used was a simple refocus during the long exposure. Each shot was about a second long, sometimes two. I’d start out of focus, and when I heard the explosion I would quickly refocus, so the little stems on these deep sea creature lookalikes would grow into a fine point. The shapes are quite bizarre, some of them I was pleasantly surprised with.
What’s interesting is that unlike usual firework photos that seem to make long trails across the sky, Johnson’s photos look like flowers with little triangular plumes coming to a point. Pretty amazing. You can see several more photos here.