Cai Guo Qiang «Black Rainbow» 2005.
«SO - last Friday I roll into Edinburgh courtesy of the wheels on the bus in order to meet my lass and watch an artist blast an arc of darkness into the summer evening sky above Edinburgh castle. Really. To herald the start of the Edinburgh Art Festival, one of the gatwillion festivals that seem to be going on over there in the east this month, the artist Cai Guo-Qiang (also the subject of an exhibition at the Fruitmarket Gallery) fired a reported 12,000 shells into the sky above the castle, split into three salvos, exploding like anti-aircraft fire in sharp black clouds and carefully coordinated to produce a black rainbow hovering over the city centre. The idea was for the first salvo to create the initial black form of the rainbow, then the second and third would embolden it, making the fading shape flash with blackness.»
«Naturally, Scotland wouldn't be Scotland without the weather getting in the way, so while a mild drizzle wasn't much of a problem a strong high wind was, causing each black arc of smoke to be blown away before the next salvo could be fired to build on it. Shame that, but it still made for a remarkable sight that had everyone transfixed for the few minutes from the first shocking artillery-like firing to the final rainbow drifting apart in the wind.»
«Police made themselves very visible along Princes Street, available to reassure anyone that what sounded like hostile mortar fire from very nearby was completely safe and legit, not terrorism but art. Guo-Qiang, in a pre-London bombings interview, said that "I had this idea of how people in the daylight have a lot of fears [...] by firing it in the daylight it gives you a feeling of uneasiness." With this happening just over a week after the failed 'incidents' in London, it all felt bizarrely prescient without being tasteless or inappropriate.»
«Each salvo fired fast and loud, a massive number of shells exploding in the air like cluster bombs, unseemingly black against a dull grey sky. The sound of the firing and detonations echoed furiously, multiple sharp cracks of noise, fireworks by way of automatic gunfire. After all, it was like watching traditional fireworks, the "oooh" and "ahhh" replaced by a strange, somewhat unsettling feeling.»
«A spectacle with heavy echoes of warfare and destruction, both the scale of it and the setting looming over all of us, the anti-rainbow was something out of our control, exploding into the sky without any exact warning, silencing and captivating everyone momentarily. It was a remarkable sight and an affecting experience, which in my book makes it a fine piece of art. Bugger to frame though.»
Black Rainbow: Explosion Project for Edinburgh, 2005.