Inopportune: Stage One, Cai Guo-Qiang
“I don’t take cards, only cash,” the parking attendant said gruffly. I hopped out of my car in downtown Seattle and went to a nearby Wells Fargo, grumbling when the ATM machine charged me a two dollar fee (Is it really that much trouble to give me a bit of cash?).
I was in Seattle with my dad- he was working and I was visiting the Seattle Art Museum. After a quick stop at Starbucks, I pushed through a revolving door and found an ENORMOUS EXPLODING CAR hanging above my head. It was Cai Guo-Qiang‘s massive piece Inopportune, a string of nine identical white cars suspended from the ceiling with strings of flashing lights pierced through them.
It’s a real-world representation of a Muybridge photo series: the car starts safely on the ground before lifting off, twisting through the air and landing again in a different room, all while spitting strings of sparks.
The piece has a (very literal) story arc suggesting incredible motion, but at the same time it hangs entirely motionless. It’s this strange contrast of ideas-a spectacular stunt bursting with kinetic energy versus a set of objects chained to the ceiling and groaning against gravity- that made me pace the length of the piece several times in uneasy awe.
Only after I’d paid to enter and started exploring the rest of the museum did I realize that my uneasiness wasn’t entirely due to Guo-Qiang’s wizardry. None of the other paid parking lots I’d been to had a parking attendant.
I rushed back past Inopportune, which now hung as a sort of omen for what was to come. My fears were confirmed when I saw a little pink envelope tucked under my windshield wiper. It was a 60 dollar ticket, which when added to the 10 dollars I paid the “parking attendant” makes a very expensive trip to the art museum. Grand theft auto indeed!