Tuesday, July 5, 2011

camminando MIAMI | Pyrotechnics: a Nocturnal Art

Though I can view fireworks from afar over the waters of Biscayne Bay (and usually do) from my balcony on Miami's South Beach, I ventured a half hour walk with a friend to the beach this 4th of July . I laid flat out on the sand to view them literally raining down upon me, filling in my entire visual space as the the humid breeze enveloped the night. It was inspirationally exhilarating to be consumed by the vibrance and pure exuberance of the event. I was giddy with immersion and made a mental note to make a greater effort to be "in the moment". Wielding a new small Canon digital camera in lieu of my cumbersome SLR I experimented with "writing with light" as I moved the camera about with shutter open. It was fun and ponied up some interesting images, instead of the usual fare.

Invented in China during the Han Dynasty (approx. 200 B.C.) and used to scare away evil spirits,fireworks were originally for New Years Eve celebrations. Mainly made of gunpowder-filled bamboo shoots, they are still made in a similar manner, substituting stiff paper tubes for the bamboo. Disney began to use compressed air instead of gunpowder just a few years ago.

The first 4th of July celebration was 1777, to instill hope and patriotism in U.S. citizens still besieged by the Revolutionary War.

Gunpowder has also been used as a medium for artists: Cai Guo-Qiang from Fujian Provence, now living in New York, began using gunpowder as material after September 11th. His work was exhibited in the 2000 Whitney Biennial, 1999 Venice Biennale. I recall a loud but stunning exhibition at the Guggenheim, 2008. He sprinkles different grades of gunpowder on handmade Japanese rice paper, cutting the fuses in a specific manner to control the energy before lighting it in front of an audience, The end result is a “drawing” of ash residue on the paper.

Cai was director of visual and special effects for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympic Games