Best known previously in the west for visual extravangazas in the form of such films as Hero and Raise the Red Lantern, director Zhang Yimou oversaw the 2008 Olympics August 8 opening ceremony, a spectacle with a heavy emphasis on light and sound — and arguably the world’s largest site-specific multimedia art installation.
The literal fireworks by no means overshadowed the figurative ones, notably the initial 60-second countdown, as pictured in the five pictures immediately below. Some 2008 percussionists battered on drums that emitted light, which in turn allowed them to, in synchronization that was a theme for the entire evening, form patterns of Arabic numerals and Chinese characters.
A later sequence showed a rectangular mass of oversized Chinese moveable-type characters (see below) that created an intersection between ancient and modern information technology. While the individual objects signified the long history of invention in the East, each character also served as a pixel in a grid that, like the 60-second-countdown drum-lights, could be choreographed to depict images, shapes and movement.
(Images courtesy of shropshirestar.com, nzherald.co.nz, espn.go.com/olympics, en.beijing2008.cn, and nytimes.com.)