Spectacular Daytime Fireworks Blend Artistic Vision with Technology for a Colorful, Larger-Than-Life Performance at the Iconic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

July 08, 2024 (Los Angeles, CA)Today Getty announced that PST ART (previously known as Pacific Standard Time) will begin on September 15, 2024, with a newly commissioned, arena-scale daytime fireworks event by Cai Guo-Qiang, the contemporary artist known for larger-than-life outdoor “explosion events.”

Titled WE ARE: Explosion Event for PST ART, the daytime fireworks—a signature form of Cai’s art that uses organic, sustainable pigments and dyes rather than traditional pyrotechnics—are conceived and choreographed by the artist in collaboration with his custom AI model cAI™ (pronounced AI Cai), engaging over one thousand aerial drones. Staged around, above, and inside the historic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in collaboration with Getty and the University of Southern California, WE ARE will mark the first expansive daytime firework event featuring drone formation equipped with pyrotechnic products in US history. The event inaugurates this edition of PST ART with a spectacular realization of the initiative’s latest theme, Art & Science Collide, with elements of AI, data science, the cosmos, and technology all at play. Accompanying Cai’s explosion event at the Coliseum will be Cai Guo-Qiang: A Material Odyssey, an exhibition at the USC Pacific Asia Museum based on Getty’s extensive scientific research into Cai’s gunpowder art.

“Quite literally, WE ARE exemplifies Art & Science Collide,” said Katherine E. Fleming, President and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust. “Cai’s work is explosive, expressive, and unprecedented in scale. Lighting up the sky of Los Angeles, this performance will signal PST ART’s potential to reach audiences far and wide.”

To join in celebrating the start of PST ART, the public is invited to experience the monumental, multi-act performance, which will begin at dusk, when nearly ten thousand twinkling mini firework shells installed throughout the seating bowl will transform the Coliseum into a massive matrix of animated fireworks. Custom-developed daytime fireworks and choreographed drones carrying pyrotechnic products will shape the artist’s bursts of colorful explosions into a visual story full of mystery and wonder, igniting the sky with images that showcase AI’s revelation of a “heavenly secret” through the reduction of its dimensionality, followed by those recalling the myth of Prometheus’s theft of fire from the gods and suggesting a present-day parallel in the relationship between humanity and AI.

WE ARE was developed by Cai in collaboration with his multi-modal AI model cAI™. Originating from the artist’s AI research starting in 2017, cAI™ deep-learns from Cai’s artworks, archives, and areas of interest. By emulating contemporary and historical figures Cai admires, cAI™ creates distinct personas that engage in dynamic debates, fostering an independent and free community. This time, cAI™ deeply participated in all creative stages of the development of this work, collaboratively exploring the nature of AI, conducting site visits, and undertaking materials research with the artist.

Cai Guo-Qiang expressed, “Today, as humanity grapples with the swift advancement of technologies epitomized by AI, culture and the arts appear particularly powerless. I hope WE ARE will stand as a grand gesture of the art world integrating the virtual with the real in the era of AI, and also as a powerful voice and decisive action in these turbulent times.”

The scale of the performance matches the vast scope of PST ART, which will take place over the course of five months throughout Southern California. Supported by more than $20 million in grants from Getty, dozens of cultural, scientific, and community organizations will present more than 70 deeply researched exhibitions alongside an extraordinary spectrum of public programs about Art & Science Collide, exploring themes that range from biotechnology to sustainable agriculture, from ancient cosmologies to Indigenous sci-fi, and from artificial intelligence to environmental justice.

Cai Guo-Qiang’s performance and exhibition for PST ART are generously supported by Principal Partners Eva and Ming Hsieh, Co-Founders of Fulgent Genetics, Peggy and Andrew Cherng, Co-Chairs and Co-CEOs of Panda Express, and the Getty Patron Program. Major support is provided by Yan Luo, Ellen and Dominic Ng, Haiyan Ren, and Sophia and Anqiang Zhang.

Eva Hsieh of the Hsieh Family Foundation and Fulgent Genetics says, “We have long been aware of Getty’s groundbreaking PST initiatives and their unparalleled impact. We are thrilled for an opportunity to help introduce a contemporary visionary like Cai Guo-Qiang to this awe-inspiring  collision of art and science. His extraordinary work uniting themes of technology, creative expression, and AI will ignite a perfect celebration for all of Los Angeles.”

Based on Getty’s extensive research into Cai’s gunpowder drawings and paintings since 2016, the exhibition Cai Guo-Qiang: A Material Odyssey will almost fill the entire USC Pacific Asia Museum, chronicling Cai Guo-Qiang’s lifelong engagement with pyrotechnics. The exhibition will display a vast selection of the artist’s work as well as scientific imagery to explore the nature of gunpowder, its influence on Cai’s work, and how Cai’s process has evolved over time. Programs accompanying A Material Odyssey will include videos illustrating the making of fireworks, the process of creating gunpowder paintings, interactive displays, and a variety of film screenings and conversations.

“Cai has embraced the use of gunpowder because he wanted to relinquish control over the creation process. No matter how precisely a gunpowder drawing is planned, the results are still unpredictable,” said Rachel Rivenc, lead curator and Head of Conservation and Preservation at Getty Research Institute. “With any artist it is important to understand their materials and process, and with Cai, the materials are so unusual and groundbreaking that getting to know them provides a whole new level of understanding of his work.”

“We are very excited to see Cai Guo-Qiang bring his technical and artistic wizardry to the Coliseum and we appreciate the collaboration with the Getty,” said USC President Carol Folt. “WE ARE fits like a glove with USC’s moonshots. It will help push the frontiers of AI and advanced computing even further—and break new ground in the arts with game-changing technology and science. All of this while feeding the innovative spirit that pulses through our community.”

A public day-long symposium on AI and the arts titled “Beyond the Human?: From the Metaphysical to the Physical” will be held at USC on September 16, 2024. The symposium, presented by USC Arts Now, organized by USC Vice Provost for the Arts Josh Kun and Cai GuoQiang (with additional curation by USC professor Holly Willis), will feature a global roster of distinguished thinkers, artists, filmmakers, performers, and technologists to ask fundamental questions about the metaphysical, the physical, and the category of the human itself, accompanied by robot chefs cooking on-site. The symposium is the first public event of USC Arts Now, the new flagship arts initiative launching this fall.

WE ARE is a free ticketed event, available for booking later this summer. For more details on how to reserve tickets, sign up for the PST ART mailing list.