Sky Ladder is a Netflix documentary that details the life and artwork of Cai Guo-Qiang, a pyrotechnic artist whose work is often created with the sky as his canvas. He uses fireworks and gunpowder to create large colourful displays that stem from his cultural roots and his own inspirations. The documentary takes viewers on his journey of attempting to create his most ambitious project yet: “Sky Ladder.”
In the documentary, we watch Guo-Qiang’s daily struggle to create beautiful art while battling the Chinese government. The government consistently gets in the way of the implementation of his ideas, especially when he needs to create displays for “political” events, such as the Beijing Olympics in 2008. While being a successful artist, Guo-Qiang also cares for his ill father who cannot move or speak, and his 100-year-old grandmother whose age has caused her levels of speech to deteriorate.
“Sky Ladder” is essentially a large ladder created out of fireworks. It is meant to stand between the sky and the land. Guo-Qiang’s goal for this project was to light up the ladder so that it would shine brightly for the surrounding cities and villages. Guo-Qiang pursued this project to create a connection between the land and our universe.
“Sky Ladder” has been Guo-Qiang’s ultimate project. His attempt to create this project was his fourth time trying to complete it. During his previous attempts, the government prevented him from raising the ladder. The project became too dangerous and a whole slew of reasons kept piling up against Guo-Qiang.
On his fourth attempt, at the end of the documentary, he was finally able to raise “Sky Ladder” with a giant balloon and ignite the pyrotechnics that the ladder was comprised of. The result was nothing short of breathtaking. What made this moment so beautiful was how Guo-Qiang finally achieved something that was deemed impossible. As large as this project was, he didn’t share this moment with the entire world watching; it was only for his close friends and family. The entire project was dedicated to his grandmother.
“Sky Ladder” is a stunning piece that represents an artist whose life and work pushes the boundaries of art. Guo-Qiang is a humble artist, whose work impacts many. He truly uses the sky as his canvas and creates pieces that not only shock, but inspire his viewers.
Sky Ladder is an inspirational film that leaves you wanting more. For many, this display is just fireworks. But to Guo-Qiang, this is his way of displaying to the world that art can be spectacular and life-changing.
The moment when Guo-Qiang finally raised “Sky Ladder” was unforgettable. Seeing the ladder raised to the sky, burning with its orange flame, was beautiful. Guo-Qiang reminds us that sometimes, you need to push to achieve what might seem impossible. A little resilience and effort can change your life and connect you to the world. All you have to do is climb the ladder.