‘Be careful of books. Be careful with books. Be careful or one can become a weapon-wielder. Be careful or one can become the victim’ -Cai Guo-Qiang
Artist books are not so much books as book-like objects. They are in themselves a work of art, they come in all shapes, sizes and forms, often challenging our notions of what constitutes a book. Artists have come up with some pretty inventive ways of presenting their work, however the most bizarre I have encountered is by Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang.
Cai Guo-Qiang’s Danger Book is made up of a series of drawings made using gunpowder and glue. Within the pages is attached a bundle of matches with a string that dangles out of the edge of the book, inviting the reader to pull it and in so doing ignite the book and set off the gunpowder. Thus each book is unique and comes with a kind of performance included in the price.
The video below is a documentation of the process of making a Danger Book:
By Li Po (translated by Arthur Waley)
“Life in the World is but a big dream;
I will not spoil it by any labour or care.”
So saying, I was drunk all the day,
Lying helpless at the porch in front of my door.
When I woke up, I blinked at the garden-lawn;
A lonely bird was singing amid the flowers.
I asked myself, had the day been wet or fine?
The Spring wind was telling the mango-bird.
Moved by its song I soon began to sigh,
And as wine was there I filled my own cup.
Wildly singing I waited for the moon to rise;
When my song was over, all my senses had gone.
While some works of art have survived thousands of years others are as fleeting as a shooting star. A master of the ephemeral, Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang uses the sky as his canvas and gunpowder as his paintbrush in his staged firework performances which can take place in day or night.