CAI GUO-QIANGBlack Rainbow: Explosion Project For Valencia, 2005, photo documentation of an explosion performance, in which 1,400 three-inch black smoke shells were created on 12:05 PM, May 22, 2005, over the course of approximately one minute. Photo by Juan Garcia Rosell. Copyright Institut Valencià d’Art Modern, Valencia.

Transcendental Destruction

As the art world continues ascending to dizzying commercial heights, ArtAsiaPacific no. 57 blazes ahead into 2008 by investigating themes of landscapes, paradise and destruction through the work of artists, curators and initiatives devoted to changing the art map.

This issue begins with ArtAsiaPacific senior editor Don Cohn’s investigation of the work of Taoist pyrotechnician Cai Guo-Qiang, who rose to fame with his explosion events at sights around the world, as he prepared for a landmark survey exhibition at New York’s Guggenheim Museum. Cai, who was raised in China and also spent a seminal period in Japan before moving to New York, has transformed the iconic Frank Lloyd Wright rotunda with a site-specific installation that explodes, as Cohn envisions, “in orgasmic cataclysm, immediately thereafter reverting to a yin state of cool repose and achieving a desirable balance in the process.”

This issue also scales the heights of Tibet in two features. Long-time China hand Meg Maggio spoke to vanguard artist and curator Qiu Zhijie about the new mode of socially-conscious art he is practicing in China by taking students from the Hangzhou Academy of Art’s Total Art Studio on field trips to Tibet, where they created art works and conducted cultural surveys. In London, meanwhile, a group of expatriate artists from Tibet gathered for a roundtable with AAP contributing editor Eliza Gluckman to discuss the current state of art inspired by the place, mental and physical, known as Shangri-la.

On other frontiers, Gina Fairley explores the social dynamics of motorcycles and sporting subculture on barren Australian highways through the work of Shaun Gladwell.

Shanghai desk editor Rebecca Catching met with video artist Lida Abdul, a participant in the fifth edition of Asian Contemporary Art Week in New York who is also short-listed for the prestigious 2008 Artes Mundi Prize, to learn how she infuses fantasy and lament into images of a devastated Afghan landscape. And in anticipation of the Pakistan Pavilion at Art Dubai in March, Almanac co-editor Murtaza Vali looks at Lahore-based scholar and curator Salima Hashmi’s notion of “paradise” in art from Pakistan.

Continuing the theme in State of the Art, visionary patron Anupam Poddar, who will launch his family’s Devi Art Foundation in New Delhi later this year, assesses conditions for creating authenticity in the Subcontinent. Profiles visits with legendary Indian Progressives Group co-founder SH Raza and deputy editor Andrew Maerkle paints a complex portrait of Beijing-based Op-Pop painter Yan Lei. On the heels of a recent election, Bangkok desk editor Brian Mertens delves into Thailand’s post-coup election politics with an in-depth review of “The Art of Corruption,” a group exhibition of artwork, agitprop shadow puppet-theater and graphics.

Projects in the Making introduces rising young US-based Iranian mixed-media and installation artist Sarah Rahbar to a broader international audience, while news and profiles editor HG Masters reviews several notable books from 2007, including User’s Manual: Contemporary Art in Turkey 1986-2006, Makoto Aida: Monument for Nothing and Rirkrit Tiravanija: A Retrospective (tomorrow is another fine day).

From the posh auction rooms of New York, London and Hong Kong, to Chinese Tibet and war-torn Afghanistan, ArtAsiaPacific’s panoramic lens never stops moving. As art circles the globe and the globe circles art, we want to be there, to look, to report and to participate in the great visual adventure.