In Conversation with Met Curator of Asian Art, Maxwell K. Hearn
Pioneering Chinese contemporary artist Xu Bing creates powerful, poignant mixed-media installations, in which he subverts systems of language, upending expectations and perception. He explains that his works “are all linked by a common thread, which is to construct some kind of obstacle to people's habitual ways of thinking—what I call the ‘cognitive structures’ of the mind.” Trained as a printmaker, Xu is informed by the Cultural Revolution, Chan Buddhism, and his keen interest in the relationship between meaning and words, writing, and reading. He has famously re-invented Chinese characters and the English alphabet, rendering Chinese nonsensical and English into legible Chinese characters, effectively challenging comprehension of both. In Book from the Sky (1987-91), Xu filled a gallery with scrolls and books hand-printed with 4,000 “false” Chinese characters—a stunning commentary on the subjectivity of language and its meaning.
Chinese, b. 1955, Chongqing, China, based in Beijing, China