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The third edition of the Getty’s PST Art initiative will get off to an explosive start on 15 September, when the Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang executes WE ARE: Explosion Event for PST ART (2024), an ambitious new daytime fireworks commission incorporating drones and artificial intelligence (AI).

PST Art

‘The biggest arts project in the US’: PST Art to bring dozens of exhibitions to Los Angeles and Southern California this September

Staged in, around and above the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Cai’s new piece will include more than 1,000 drones—some of them outfitted with pyrotechnics—choreographed in collaboration with a custom AI model the artist has been developing since 2017. The fiery display will begin at dusk with the ignition of almost 10,000 mini-firework shells installed throughout the Coliseum’s seating bowl. It will feature organic and sustainable dyes and pigments, as opposed to traditional fireworks materials.

“Today, as humanity grapples with the swift advancement of technologies epitomised by AI, culture and the arts appear particularly powerless,” the artist said in a statement. “I hope WE ARE will stand as a grand gesture of the art world integrating the virtual with the real in the era of AI, and also as a powerful voice and decisive action in these turbulent times.”

Computer rendering of Cai Guo-Qiang’s WE ARE: Explosion Event for PST ART, 2024

Bringing together elements of art, science, technology and sustainability, WE ARE will be a fitting kickoff project for this PST Art, with its theme of “Art & Science Collide”. One of the programme’s exhibitions, Cai Guo-Qiang: A Material Odyssey at the Pacific Asia Museum at the University of Southern California (USC), will draw on the Getty’s analysis of Cai’s use of gunpowder in his drawings and paintings.

“Cai’s work is explosive, expressive and unprecedented in scale,” Katherine E. Fleming, the president and chief executive of the J. Paul Getty Trust, said in a statement. “Lighting up the sky of Los Angeles, this performance will signal PST Art’s potential to reach audiences far and wide.”

Artist interview

Interview: Cai Guo-Qiang takes stock of Chinese art now

The day after Cai’s extravaganza formally kicks off PST Art, USC will host a public symposium on art and AI titled “Beyond the Human? From the Metaphysical to the Physical”.

“WE ARE fits like a glove with USC’s moonshots,” the university’s president, Carol Folt, said in a statement. “It will help push the frontiers of AI and advanced computing even further—and break new ground in the arts with game-changing technology and science. All of this while feeding the innovative spirit that pulses through our community.”

PST Art’s 2024 edition will span more than 70 exhibitions at art institutions throughout Southern California—plus, for the first time, complementary programming at the region’s commercial art spaces.

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