American Silkworm Series
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.''
Medium: Site-specific installation
Materials: Iron leash with character links, live sheep
A long iron chain extends from the exhibition hall to the green lawn outside of the museum. A white sheep is leashed at the end. The chain is connected by the words from a poem by John Berger.
The piece was exhibited at NY PS1 the same year, and the chain of words stretched from the second-floor gallery to the garden on the rooftop.
Your Surname Please
Installation view at Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Japan, 1998
Installation view at Germany
Installation view at Germany
Materials: Mixed media installation; computers and software
In this interactive computer installation, three computer stations are installed below a display of large wall panels on which various surnames have been inscribed in Xu's invented Square Word Calligraphy. Audience members are invited to sit at one of the stations and type their own surnames out in Standard English on the keyboard. The computer then processes this information, ''transposing'' their surnames into New English Square Word Calligraphy and printing them out for the audience to take away. In this way, the audience experiences a new and intriguing sense of personal connection with Chinese calligraphy.
American Silkworm Series 4: Silkworm VCR
Materials: Mixed media installation; VCR, monitor, silkworms
Inside a large open box is placed a VCR and a number of live silkworms spinning silk. The VCR is turned on and a videotape is running, showing a specially edited film of silkworms spinning silk. The sense of time lapse created by the piece leaves the viewer with a subtle doubt about what is "real" and what is not.
American Silkworm Series 3: The Opening
Materials: Mixed media installation; mulberry plant, silkworms, vase
During the exhibition opening, an immense bouquet of blooming mulberry branches is arranged in an oversized vase, displayed in the lobby of the venue. Hundreds of silkworms crawl on the branches and feast on the fresh leaves. Throughout the exhibition period, the mulberry leaves are completely consumed by the silkworms, leaving only naked branches. The silkworms then proceed to spin their silk into silvery cocoons, transforming the bare branches into a scene replete with a new beauty. As in many of his works, Xu's deceptively simple approach embodies a deeper philosophical connotation, grounded in the artist's application of an Eastern perspective to the objectives of contemporary art. The Opening addresses questions such as the uncertainty of an object's true nature and the transformative nature of concepts and boundaries, central themes in Xu Bing's works.