Square Word Calligraphy Classroom
Materials: Mixed-media installation; instructional video, model books, copybooks, ink, brushes, brush stands, blackboard
The intention of this installation is to simulate a classroom-like setting modeled on adult literacy classes, within a gallery or museum space. Desks are supplied with small containers of ink, brushes, and a copybook with instructions on the basic principles of 'New English Calligraphy, a writing system invented and designed by the artist. A video, Elementary Square Word Calligraphy Instruction, is played on a monitor in the exhibition space, capturing the audience’s attention and inviting them to participate in the class. Once seated at the desks, the audience is instructed to seize their brushes and the lesson in New English Calligraphy begins.
Essentially, New English Calligraphy is a fusion of written English and written Chinese. The letters of an English word are slightly altered and arranged in a square word format so that the word takes on the ostensible form of a Chinese character, yet remains legible to the English reader. As participants attempt to recognize and read the words,their ingrained thinking patterns are challenged. Accordingly, the artist strongly believes in the significance of disrupting habitual thinking. While undergoing this process of estrangement and re-familiarization with one's written language, the audience is reminded that the sensation of distance between other systems of language and one's own is largely self-induced.
An Introduction to Square Word Calligraphy
An Introduction to Square Word Calligraphy: text book and tracing book
Inside An Introduction to Square Word Calligraphy textbook
Inside An Introduction to Square Word Calligraphy
Woodblock type plate for An Introduction to Square Word Calligraphy, 1994－96
Xu Bing carving plates for An Introduction to Square Word Calligraphy
Work in progress
Stone cut type block for An Introduction to Square Word Calligraphy
Materials: woodblock hand-printed book and ink rubbing with wood cover; water-based ink on grass paper
Dimension: approx. 39 x 23 x 2.7 cm (closed)
For the Square Word Calligraphy Classroom, Xu Bing produced textbooks, an instructional videotape, and traditional tracing books. Upon arriving at the exhibition site, visitors were welcomed into a space of learning. Both individuals of Chinese heritage and Westerners encountered a unique experience when confronted with this fusion of "Oriental calligraphy for English culture.”