Pioneering Chinese contemporary artist Xu Bing creates powerful, poignant mixed-media installations in which he subverts systems of language, upending expectations and perception. For example, Xu has famously re-invented Chinese characters and the English alphabet, rendering Chinese nonsensical and English into legible Chinese characters, effectively challenging comprehension of both.
Trained as a printmaker, Xu builds mixed-media installations that simultaneously evoke and subvert centuries-old Chinese cultural traditions, such as calligraphy, woodblock printing, and landscape painting scrolls. Xu asks viewers to consider how our cultural backgrounds fundamentally colour our worldviews, especially those shaped by language.
Xu Bing and his studio worked closely with our team in China to deliver Living Word for Shanghai Library East. The artwork comprises over 804 laser-cut acrylic 'birds' in different writing styles of "square word calligraphy" — a new form of writing created by the artist. It is designed to resemble Chinese square characters in English. These iconic figures soar up from the top left corner of the page, inviting readers to free their minds and explore the ideas of writing, Chinese calligraphy, and the interchange of various cultures.
Xu Bing hopes the work inspires readers and visitors to continue learning and inspire imagination by looking at traditional perspectives and contemporary views, including art's relationship with people and the environment.
I hope to provide the public with a new understanding of contemporary art through this work. Many people have the impression that contemporary art is more difficult to understand. As a contemporary artist, if I can invite the viewer in with modest and beautiful artworks, people may leave with new inspiration.-Xu Bing
It is my great honor to work with Xu Bing, a world-class Chinese contemporary art master, and his team in the Shanghai Library East.In the conceptual scheme stage, I saw that Mr. Xu Bing had perfect control over the space and naturally integrated the public artwork "Living Word" into the architectural space. The artwork is very consistent with the project attributes, and also adds infinite vitality to the space. In the deepening stage, Mr. Xu Bing devoted himself to controlling all details of the artwork. At the installation stage, the overall installation time of artwork was nearly one month. Mr. Xu Bing came to the site and worked with the team to make the artwork come to the ground perfectly, giving the best effect of artwork to the Shanghai Library East and the readers. During working together, I saw that Mr. Xu Bing had high requirements for his works, his attitude of serious study and his love for art. The experience and experience of these works are worth learning. I also hope that Mr. Xu Bing will have more perfect public art works to show in the future.-Binkai Hong, Associate
Image Credit: Artwork image and video courtesy of RAWVISION studio, the artist, Shanghai Library and galleries
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Artist Procurement and Management
Digital Model & Render
Materials and Construction Methods