Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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8 / Writing

Quotations from Chairman Mao
Quotations from Chairman Mao
Artist / Origin Xu Bing (Chinese, b. 1955)
Region: East Asia
Date 2001
Material Ink on paper, Japanese silk backing
Dimensions Four scrolls, 116 x 27.2in (each)
Credit Courtesy Xu Bing Studio

expert perspective

Melissa ChiuMuseum Director and Vice President for Global Art Programs, Asia Society

Quotations from Chairman Mao

» Xu Bing (Chinese, b. 1955)

expert perspective

Melissa Chiu Melissa Chiu Museum Director and Vice President for Global Art Programs, Asia Society

Xu Bing’s parents were both professors at Beida University, in Beijing. And he said that he spent most of his childhood in the library looking at books. So I think that this childhood has really impacted on his art practice more than anything else.

In 1975, when Xu Bing was twenty years old, he, like twelve million other youth, were sent to the countryside to live with farmers or peasants to be reeducated. And so, during this time, he created many newsletters for the villagers and was actively involved in kind of ideas of political consciousness. He also practiced his calligraphy.

China has a long tradition of writing and calligraphy, and calligraphy, in fact, is seen as an art form. In fact, it’s seen as one of the highest art forms, more so than the pictorial tradition in some respects.

Xu Bing, when he moved to the United States, developed this new English calligraphy. He has created a script which looks like a Chinese character—a Chinese word—but it can be read by English speakers. So he has created a work that is very much for an American audience to understand how Chinese words are put together and constructed. So that, I think, is a very unique contribution to how words might play a role in visual culture. He, like many other artists, adapted to his new living conditions being a Chinese man now living in the United States, but also created something that is also about trying to look at the universality of language. And so the new work that he’s creating right now is looking at icons, international icons, and trying to develop a language that, in fact, anybody can read, around the world, no matter what language you speak.” 

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