Two nights ago Cai Guo-Qiang’s Fireflies opened on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia. Fireflies is a public art extravaganza commissioned by the Association for Public Art and funded in part by the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage. Fireflies, is part of the centennial celebration of the Ben Franklin Parkway. It invites the public to ride in Chinese lantern-adorned pedicabs up and down the Parkway. It also included a performance on September 14.
The lanterns come in a variety of forms from rockets to stars and pandas to whales. They were fabricated at Cai Guo-Qiang’s home town of Quanzhou China. The lanterns were then shipped to the U.S. and installed on the custom-designed pedicabs in an art studio in Fishtown.
Cai Guo-Qiang is no stranger to Philadelphia and the Parkway. In 2009, he collaborated with the Fabric Workshop and Museum and the Philadelphia Museum of Art to create “Fallen Blossoms.” Part of that project included an explosion on the East Terrace of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Cai Guo-Qiang has also gained international notoriety for his work as the Director of Special and Visual Effects at the opening and closing ceremonies at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
We sat down with Cai Guo-Qiang back in August to talk about his new project in Philadelphia and what inspired him to include audience participation in the project. A few days later, I shot the first rehearsal along the Parkway to get a sense for what Fireflies would be like.