Artist uses black fireworks to console A-bomb victims

by Aya Nishimura, Staff Writer

Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang, who recently received the 7th Hiroshima Art Prize, an award established by the city of Hiroshima, lit black fireworks by the Otagawa River in downtown Hiroshima on October 25. His intention was to express the idea of consoling the souls of the A-bomb victims while appealing for peace.

At 1 p.m. a flurry of 1000 fireworks, set off one after the other for 90 seconds, produced a cloud of black smoke behind the A-bomb Dome. The dynamic display was welcomed by viewers at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and other sites nearby with applause.

“The fireworks were so intense,” said Sayaka Koba, 22, who was visiting Hiroshima from Kanagawa Prefecture, near Tokyo. “They reminded me of war and made me realize the importance of peace.” Shoko Okamoto, 65, a housewife in Hiroshima whose friend experienced the atomic bombing, showed an understanding of the artwork, remarking, “The fireworks looked like the black rain that was mixed with ash after the bombing. It’s okay, though, if it can convey to young people the tragedy of that time.”

Ryuta Ushiro, 31, leader of the group of artists called ChimPom, also came to view the black fireworks. ChimPom has recently drawn criticism for skywriting the Japanese word “pika,” referring to the flash of light from the A-bomb, in the sky over Hiroshima as part of its own expression of peace. “I think Mr. Cai’s work was very successful in conveying the message of consoling the A-bomb victims,” said Mr. Ushiro. “I’m now more mindful of the importance of communicating your work to people and encouraging them to view it.”

The display of black fireworks was an event tied to a solo exhibition of Mr. Cai’s work to celebrate his receipt of the Hiroshima Art Prize. The exhibition opened at the Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art on October 25.

(Originally published on October 26, 2008)

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