From torches, to bonfires, to the torrents of firecrackers that rain from the air at Chinese New Year, launched from the rooftops and fountaining from the streets: China is a country covered with light.
With good reason. In Buddhist traditions and rural folklore, the land is also covered with spirits that are dark, treacherous, and to be avoided at all costs. But it is widely believed that these spirits fear illumination, and thus the citizens of China celebrate with bursts of light in the sky and in the streets.
island6 Arts Center and the artists of Liu Dao have created an artwork which celebrates this folklore in "Rise of the Phoenix" .
A paper cutting shows the two dimensions of the dual soul: the lower, emotional layer which passes away like nature’s beings, expressed as a strong tree, and the higher, thinking soul, expressed as a rational construction, which lives beyond the passing of the body. The paper cutting stretches over a trio of LED panels which show the licking flames from the ceremonial paper money and flammable cell phones burned in worship to aide the souls of ancestors. This is ch’i: air, breath, and vapor, controlled as the life force within us all in Chinese religion.
While Taoist traditions may too be passing on in modern China, the tradition of using light continues in neon-lined highways and LED-draped skyscrapers throughout her cities, and this is what the art of Liu Dao and the work "Rise of the Phoenix" celebrates. [Pete Bradt]