Project for Extraterrestrials No. 7 - Rebuilding the Berlin Wall (Lot 1503) is the drawing for a project under the same name executed in 1991. Here the tangible gunpowder burns extend the imperceptible wall. On the work the artist inscribed his ideas of creation; noteworthy is that these ideas are virtually the same as those he had written on the seven-fold screens. Evidently Cai had already gone through a deep contemplation and come up with a definite plan before the next-year project was executed. On these small album leaves the artist presented a complete conceptual frame for his creative works. The concept behind the work involved placement of gunpowder and a 2800m long fuse on the site of the original wall, which would burn for a total of 28 seconds after its ignition, creating a fleeting wall of light that would soon disappear and remind us of the separations, scars, and injuries of history. The ignition of the wall of light was to be broadcast live by satellite around the world - and, on another frequency, broadcast into space. The Berlin Wall marks an important stage of modern history; in 1961, the East German government built a 2800m wall over its border, blocking all communications between the East and West Berliners. It was not until 1989 when the wall was tore down that Germany was reunited after the 28 years of separation. On the drawing Cai Guo-qiang inked his declaration: "This is a transient wall! But in our long human history, there have been so many times when physical walls and mental walls have been burned across our civilizations - between individuals, between peoples, and between nations." For Cai, the Berlin Wall not only symbolizes the parting and union of Germany, but also the segregation that arises in human history, time after time, owing to politics, religions and cultural differences. Thus Cai's idea of recreating the Berlin Wall on its original site in a burning wall of fireworks was a deeply symbolic reexamination of events: for even if the wall has long since been brought down, it will always remain as a mental barrier. Can humankind ever overcome such mental barriers? It is tougher to bring down mental walls than physical ones - they are invisible and their existence sometimes remains unknown, yet in the long run of human history they have inflicted cruel scars on our psyche.
Gunpowder was a byproduct of ancient alchemical efforts; the alchemists hunted for the elixir of immortality, and, ironically, their production, manipulated in wars, becomes the wraith that takes life away. The peculiar theme of the Book on Military Strategy (Lot 1504) underlines the characteristics of gunpowder as a body that transcends the boundary of life and death. The Art of War reads: "the art of war is of vital importance to the State. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry, which can on no account be neglected. " It clearly pinpoints the "precautionary" attitude as a war strategy. The artist foregrounds the intimate link between gunpowder and weapons to convey the brutality of war and the value of living. On the album leaves Cai seems to have reproduced the ancient "Eighteen Arms": sabre, spear, sword, halberd, axe, battle axe, hook, trident, halberd, pole, lance, cudgel, chain whip, mace, hammer, talon, crutch and meteor rope. The modeling of these weapons changes with the varying positions and dosages of the gunpowder burns - a fact that reflects how the explosion has been repeatedly tested and precisely measured, so as to produce the ideal effect and that it is not a random cry for a moment of gorgeousness. Leafing through the album we are obliged to marvel at the magic and glamour the various weapons and burns lend us. In a world where men keep inventing new weapons for survival, Cai Guo-qiang works to warn us, with his Book on Military Strategy, that the civilization is evolving, and that history, as well as war, always repeats itself.