Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
September 2, 2014

Don’t Call 911: Gallery to Host ‘Explosion Event’

If you were walking on the National Mall on Tuesday, you might have seen a 40-foot-tall pine tree being erected on the north side of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. Most people probably dismissed the giant tree as just another sign of the season — the Capitol Christmas tree was delivered Monday, after all. But the tree on the Smithsonian Institution property is a bit different: It’s going to be blown up at 3 p.m. Friday.


The soon-to-be-flaming pine has been lined with special fireworks, and the “lighting ceremony” is an art installation by the Chinese-born, New York-based pyrotechnic artist Cai Guo-Qiang. His work is often referred to as “explosion events.”

Because of the nature of the art, most of Guo-Qiang’s work is site-specific and for one-time-only viewing. This particular “explosion event” will not be your typical July Fourth color explosion, nor will it resemble any tree lighting you’ve seen before.

“[The pine] tree will erupt in an effervescent shimmer of fireworks,” a gallery release promises. The shimmers will be “followed by a cascade of black ink-like smoke that mimics the flowing beauty of traditional Chinese brush drawings.” So the audience will be witness to two trees: one the solid pine, the other a smoky and temporal wisp of a tree. And people say Washington is dull.

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