In a dual presentation of Chinese art and culture past and present, the Melbourne Winter Masterpieces series at the National Gallery of Victoria presents China’s ancient terracotta warriors alongside an exhibition of new works by one of the world’s most exciting contemporary artists, Murmuration by Cai Guo-Qiang.
«The ever-changing formation of 10,000 porcelain birds in Murmuration seems to embody the lingering spirits of the underground army,’ says Cai Guo-Qiang, ‘or perhaps the haunting shadow of China’s imperial past. But in this age of globalisation, aren’t they also forming a mirage, an exoticised imagination of the cultural other?»
Cai Guo-Qiang’s handmade Murmuration undulate here and there, softly imitating the mighty face of Mount Li. Juxtaposed together, the ancient soldiers and contemporary flock merge to form a new meridian. The porcelain birds are Cai’s answer to the terracotta warriors. They even arose from a pit where they were blackened by gunpowder in a series of controlled explosions. They may fly in formation, but a bird will always be a conspicuous symbol of freedom. By contrast Qin Shihuang’s guardian army is a remnant of a political system that prefigures every totalitarian state in history.