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Xu Bing and Contemporary Chinese Art

Cultural and Philosophical Reflections

Roger T. Ames, Hsingyuan Tsao

Publication Year: 2011

Explores how Xu Bing and other contemporary Chinese artists use Western ideas within a Chinese cultural discourse. 'How Chinese is contemporary Chinese art? Treasured by collectors, critics, and art world cognoscenti, this art developed within an avant-garde that looked West to find a language to strike out against government control. Traditionally, Chinese artistic expression has been related to the structure and function of the Chinese language and the assumptions of Chinese natural cosmology. Is contemporary Chinese art rooted in these traditions or is it an example of cultural self-colonization? Contributors to this volume address this question, going beyond the more obvious political and social commentaries on contemporary Chinese art to find resonances between contemporary artistic ideas and the indigenous sources of Chinese cultural self-understanding. Focusing in particular on the acclaimed artist Xu Bing, this book looks at how he and his peers have navigated between two different cultural sites to establish a third place, a place from which to appropriate Western ideas and use them to address centuries-old Chinese cultural issues within a Chinese cultural discourse.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Xu Bing and Contemporary Chinese Art

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Contents

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pp. v-vi

Illustrations

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pp. vii-ix

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xii

This book project began as an idea for a team-taught graduate seminar while I was teaching at the University of Hawai‘i, Manoa, with my colleague Dr. Roger T. Ames. We were interested in how we might define the Chinese tradition-based discourse, if there is any, for Chinese contemporary art. Before the course was ...

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A Dilemma in Contemporary Chinese Art: An Introduction

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pp. xiii-xxiv

Is contemporary Chinese art “Chinese” art? Chapters in this collection attempt to address this question by investigating the relationship between ancient Chinese philosophy and the ideas being expressed in contemporary Chinese art at a time when this art becomes increasingly popular in the West. Contemporary Chinese ...

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1. Reading and Misreading: Double Entendre in Locally Oriented Logos

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pp. 1-32

Is contemporary Chinese art part of contemporary Chinese culture or part of a Western-centered global culture in this era of globalization?1 In the past two decades, prestigious museums and galleries such as the Whitney Biennial, the Venice Biennale, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Pompidou Center in ...

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2. Reading Xu Bing’s A Book from the Sky: A Case Study in the Making of Meaning

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pp. 33-65

I am not concerned here to speculate on authorial intent—what Xu Bing’s A Book from the Sky (Tianshu 天書, Figure I.1) might mean to him as the artist of this installation.1 And there are better informed interpreters available to evaluate the many different, often insightful, sociological and political interpretations of this ...

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3. Seriousness, Playfulness, and a Religious Reading of Tianshu

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pp. 67-94

In this chapter, I intend to explore the religious dimensions of Tianshu (known as A Book from the Sky, 1987–1991, Figure I.1; hereafter, Tianshu 天書) and its relationship to seriousness and playfulness. Since Xu Bing’s immigration to the United States in 1991, discussions about the religious dimensions of Tianshu are generally ...

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4. Making Natural Languages in Contemporary Chinese Art

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pp. 95-115

Since the mid-1980s Xu Bing and other contemporary Chinese artists have explored problems and contradictions of textual language, the interplay between textual and visual meanings, or between meaning and nonsense, and the status of cultural versus natural languages in a series of ongoing projects. Several of these ...

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5. The Living Word: Xu Bing and the Art of Chan Wordplay

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pp. 117-146

Since emigrating from China to the United States in 1990, Xu Bing has developed a unique format of art connected to his position as an artist of the Chinese diaspora. Featured in prestigious exhibitions around the world, his work has received critical acclaim across Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America. As for ...

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6. Transmission of Meanings: A Study of Shen Wai Shen 身外身 (Body Outside Body) by Xu Bing 徐冰

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pp. 147-175

This chapter aims to explore Xu Bing’s Shen Wai Shen (身外身, Body Outside of Body, Figure 6.1, hereafter, Shen Wai Shen), literally “body outside body,” an installation that focuses on issues around the transformability of languages in the computer and digital age.1 This installation recontextualizes how the Chinese written ...

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7. The Space Between

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pp. 177-198

Xu Bing’s A Book from the Sky (Figure I.1) deprives Chinese written characters of their ordinary linguistic significance, reduces them to their pure image state, and offers a new set of potential meanings derived not from content but from context. His Square Word Calligraphy provides meaning where none is suspected. These ...

Appendix 1

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pp. 199-209

Appendix 2

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pp. 211-224

Contributors

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pp. 225-227

Index

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pp. 229-237


E-ISBN-13: 9781438437927
E-ISBN-10: 1438437927
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438437910
Print-ISBN-10: 1438437919

Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 31 b/w photographs
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: SUNY series in Chinese Philosophy and Culture
Series Editor Byline: Roger T. Ames

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Art, Chinese -- 21st century -- Themes, motives.
  • Xu, Bing, 1955- -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Art, Chinese -- 20th century -- Themes, motives.
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