American Silkworm Series
Location: Beijing, China
Materials: Performance media installation with live animal / Live Pig, books, mannequin, wood blocks, ink
This work was created as an extension of an earlier project: A Case Study of Transference. A life-sized mannequin in human form, covered in false-character tattoos, was placed inside an enclosure containing a male pig, similarly tattooed. The intention was both to observe the reaction of the pig towards the mannequin and to produce an absurd and random drama -- an intention that was realized when the pig reacted to the mannequin in an aggressively sexual manner. The entire process was documented and the resulting photographs were exhibited several years after the event, in 1998.
A Case Study of Transference
Medium: Performance, mixed media installation / Ink and live pigs
When this work was initially performed in Beijing, it revealed an unexpected and surprising dynamic between the spectators and the spectacle. Just before the event took place there was some concern that, once confronted with the unfamiliar cultural environment of the exhibition hall, the pigs would become too nervous to perform the crucial act. But in fact the result was just the opposite: the pigs themselves were completely unfazed, and blithely ignoring their human onlookers pursued their lovemaking with great gusto. It was rather the audience members who found themselves in an embarrassing and awkward position. What ultimately was exposed was not any sense of discomfort or displacement on the part of the pigs, but the limitations and the inability to adapt of the human audience. Xu Bing states: ''These two creatures, devoid of human consciousness, yet carrying on their bodies the marks of human civilization, engage in the most primal form of 'social intercourse.' The absolute directness of this undertaking produces a result that is both unthinkable and worth thinking about. In watching the behavior of the two pigs, we are led to reflect on human behavior.'' To the artist, the process of caring for and working with the pigs constitutes ''a kind of ongoing sociological experiment, touching on myriad issues.''
Location: Guangzhou, China
The idea for this installation came from a newspaper article about peasants in Southern China who disguised normal horses as zebras to attract tourism. Xu Bing saw how this story exemplifies the kind of creativity and intelligence brought forth by recent developments in China's economic policies. The installation itself merely re-creates this borrowed wisdom of the masses. Similar to Xu Bing's language-based works, this project deals with the concept of masks. The zebras appear in camouflage, so while the viewer encounters a familiar face, what is perceived is inconsistent with its reality.
Location：Jack Tilton Gallery, New York, USA
Materials: Mixed medIa installation / Live pigs, bamboo, classical paintings
In this work, Xu Bing created an ersatz "authentic" space for gallery visitors to view a well-known symbol of Chinese culture -- the panda bear. Xu Bing's pandas, however, were actually New Hampshire pigs, a breed with natural black-and-white markings similar to those of the panda bear. The artist doctored their appearance with panda masks and let them wander freely inside an elegant "Chinese" enclosure consisting of a bamboo grove against the backdrop of a traditional landscape painting.
Like a significant number of Xu's works, Panda Zoo explores the implications of the mask, an exploration that extends to his works of invented calligraphy, which the artist describes as ''masked characters.''
Materials: Steel leash, live sheep
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 of the text of the foreword to the exhibition catalogue written by Linda Weintraub, one of the exhibition curators.
Location: Beijing, China
Materials: Performance, mixed media installation / Live parrot
For this performance art work Xu Bing trained a parrot to communicate certain sentiments to gallery audiences. For the duration of the exhibition, the parrot sat alone in its cage in the exhibition hall and quoted learned phrases, such as:
You people are so boring!
Modern art is crap!
Why are you holding me prisoner, you bastards!