Counting down to Cai’s Odyssey

Posted on October 5, 2010

Odyssey location

Odyssey warehouse location


This morning I joined around 30 others to work on Cai Guo-Qiang’s Odyssey. They let us loose with X-acto knives, cutting around the brush marks that Cai made, to create a cardboard stencil. None of us volunteers knew each other before we started, but after you’ve worked on your knees, side by side trying not to stab each other with a knife, you bond pretty quickly.

Cai works from a long drawing, a little like a scroll painting, using a long stick with a Sharpie for drawing and a wide brush for painting. Although there must be a lot of planning involved, he does make adjustments and changes as he works. Although he has a lot of assistants, they are mainly carrying out and translating his direct instructions, or overseeing standard work such as taping the stencil so that it can be moved around. I have often wondered how much an artist does when they have assistants or volunteers, and I can say that I am not adding one iota of creative input to this project. All the creative decisions are coming from Cai.

Today we learnt that the volunteers will NOT be handling the huge panels. What a relief. I would much rather point out the areas where I cut the stencil than the dent in the panels where I dropped one.

The Houston site Culture Map has a series of articles on the Odyssey work and they will have a live webcast of the work on Wednesday leading up to the ignition ceremony in the evening. There will also be an ignition party at St. Arnold’s Brewery.

The above photograph is the only one I will be able to post. Although there are cameras around us at all times (which is a little off-putting at first when you’re crawling around on hands and knees with your behind in the air), the volunteers are not allowed to take photographs. If I get chance I will make some quick drawings of us working.

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