Cover image of the review
Installation view of *Terracotta Warriors: Guardians of Immortality* and *Cai Guo-Qiang: The Transient Landscape*. 2019. NGV International. Photo: Sean Fennessy

Terracotta Warriors: Guardians of Immortality & Cai Guo-Qiang: The Transient Landscape

17 Aug 2019
23 May - 12 Oct 2019

“Imagine they all come alive!” says a young schoolboy. His words, along with the highly naturalistic style of terracotta warriors, remind us of Mamoru Oshii's renowned screen production Ghost in the Shell: Innocence (2004). The film discusses the ambiguous boundary between human and anthropomorphous robots, challenging the conventional understanding of life as distinct from technology. Through “Terracotta Warriors & Cai Guo-Qiang”, this year's Melbourne Winter Masterpieces presentation at the NGV Internationalis primarily an introductory exhibition of Chinese funerary rituals, at certain points it addresses the tragic aspect of human destiny just like Oshii's film. Cai's focus on Taoism raises the inquiry of our human relationship with the universe. Together, the unique combination of the ancient terracotta warriors and a contemporary Chinese artist may encourage audiences to rethink mankind's long-lasting question of the relationship between life and death.

Cai Guo-Qiang did not produce a great number of artworks for this exhibition, but his juxtaposition with the antiquities effectively amplifies the latter's subtle melancholy and reminds audiences of our relative powerlessness when it comes to death. Most of the archeological discoveries displayed in “Guardians of Immortality” are tragic in themselves: outstanding craftsmanship was initially carried out as a demonstration of the Empire's extraordinary power, yet were followed by the surprisingly rapid collapse of the Qin dynasty.

To read for free enter your email address.

Log in with your registered email address.

Memo can continue to publish free, quality, and independent weekly art criticism with the support of our readers. Consider becoming a Patreon supporter or making a donation.