While the queue at NGV was long and most people were interested in the Terracotta Warriors of this dual presentation, we headed straight for the 10.000 birds. I had seen images and I was mesmerised, I had to see them for myself. And yes, it was amazing to see it in real and walk under them.
As it turns out, their number echoes the great mass of the 8000 Terracotta Warriors whom were buried with the First Emperor of China to protect him in the after life (210 BC). I read that the warriors were accidentally found in 1974 by farmers. Had they dug for water one meter to the right, the warriors might never have been found. To make that many warriors you need time. As a former undertaker I was thinking about that proces, could the emperor be buried and the army join him later? That would not be of much use if the afterlife was an instant battle. Would they keep him above ground till the army was ready? There are many Chinese, so if 4000 people make 1 or 2 warriors, it might go fast. I did some more reading, as I got curious. It turns out that when de emperor ascended the throne in 246 BC, workmen started this proces. Meaning, there were ± 222 warriors made per year. Some of the workmen were even buried alive after the emperor died, to serve him in the after life…
The birds don’t hang there just to hang. They are hung in a three-dimensional reminiscent of Mount Li, the location of the tomb. And of course, the birds being black/grey in a white space, is no coincidence either. The artist, Cai, refers to ancient brush and ink paintings. A craft his father mastered in which the brushstrokes don’t focus on being realistic, but try to capture the essence. It’s regarded a trace of energy that gives live and motion to the subject.
Although I initially thought ‘the clay figures’ didn’t interest me that much, I now know the beauty behind this exhibition. It is touching in many ways. You can see it yourself till 13.10.2019. My advice: go!