Medium: Mixed media installation/ prints of a factory floor on its wall, old printing press.
The site of Berlin’s Asian Fine Art Factory was once used in the early 20th century by the German Communist party as an underground publishing house and gathering place. It was later requisitioned by the Nazis as a holding area for deportees. Type blocks, still embedded in its gallery floors, are here used as the medium of Xu Bing’s Lost Letters. Because these rooms once housed printers, Xu Bing was interested in the historicity of the floors, in how the images they contain might once more be transferred onto paper. The artist used newspaper-sized sheaves of paper to make rubbings of these imprints. These papers were mounted alongside a vintage printing press fitted with intentionally inverted metal type plates, to mimic the effect of the floor prints. The work reflects Xu’s interest in history as palimpsest, its different “versions” overlaying each another, waiting to be discovered.
Location: Tarble Arts Center, Charleston, Illinois, USA
Materials: Mixed media installation / Metal fence, live sheep
The artist has created two versions of this installation. In the 1997 version, two huge nets were constructed of aluminum wire, the "links" of which that had been woven into word shapes. One net was installed at the entrance to the exhibition gallery, effectively blocking it off, and turning the gallery into a kind of giant trap. The second was installed in the middle of the gallery, dividing the space in half. Fenced in on one side were two live sheep, while the audience was fenced in on the other: the two sides were thus forced to stare at each other through a net of words. The content of the nets' "wire words" was comprised of personal observations of the individuals who aided the artist in the net's construction. As for the inclusion of the sheep in the installation, Xu Bing states that he works with sheep because ''I like the way they stare at things.''
The second version of this work was created in 1998. In this case a large square-shaped net was installed outside the exhibition hall. The wire words of the net comprised the text of the foreword to the exhibition catalogue written by Linda Weintraub, one of the exhibition curators.