Building on the projects realised by Antony Gormley in Guernsey and Herm and Andy Goldsworthy in Alderney respectively, the Art and Islands Foundation invited the celebrated Chinese-born artist Cai Guo-Qiang for a site visit last year to the Channel Islands.  There, the artist spent four days gauging the possibility of a pan-islands project as part of our on-going initiative.

The history and heritage of a site is often the starting point for many of Cai’s projects.

During his four-day visit to the islands in summer 2012, Cai Guo-Qiang felt compelled to understand more about the island’s long-time links with the sea.  Impressed by the strong maritime history and by the scale of the shipbuilding industry evident in both Guernsey and Jersey in the 19th century (with many of these ships destined for China to support the tea trade), Cai started to think of ways he could embrace these aspects of the islands heritage.  At the same time, Cai wanted to open up dialogues examining wider cultural links and opportunities. On his return to his studio in New York a few days later Cai wrote:-

‘As part of my ongoing global project Everything is Museum, I would like to build a boat in the heart of St Peter Port–but not just any boat–I would like to build a 24 metre Chinese junk.  Working with an expert Chinese shipbuilder from my hometown Quanzhou in Fujian Province, I would be looking to involve as many people from different communities within the Channel Islands to help build this boat. I see the shipbuilding process as an ongoing artwork and should be open for the public to view. Then in summer 2014 when the junk is launched and sets sail on its maiden voyage, I would realise an ‘explosion event’ as the boat sails around the Islands – a project that can be seen by all Islanders, no matter what island they live on. Following this ‘event’, the boat will then become a moving museum—transporting different artists’ exhibitions, educational projects and people around the islands, and possibly further afield, becoming the Channel Islands’ Museum of Contemporary Art. Through this opportunity, I hope to initiate a cultural exchange and dialogue between Quanzhou, the starting point of the ancient maritime Silk Road, and the Channel Islands.’

Operating on many different levels, CIMoCA is a clear, coherent concept addressing many of the key Art and Islands aims and objectives. CIMoCA affirms that ‘sense of place,’ making us think about what connects the islands.  It makes us think not only about the islands themselves, but also that space in between on the sea.  CIMoCA brings together the past and the present, along with the traditional and the contemporary.  With a strong community element, the project indeed offers all kinds of art, educational and cultural opportunities.

It is also important to remember that CIMoCA is part of a larger ‘global’ project. CIMoCA will be Cai’s fifth ‘museum’ in a series of curatorial projects titled Everything is Museum, giving Art and Islands the opportunity to develop exchange opportunities with other institutions in this global ongoing series.