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 used here 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 then mounted alongside a vintage printing press fitted with intentionally inverted metal type plates, to mimic the effect of the floor prints. This work reflects Xu’s interest in history as palimpsest with its different “versions” overlaying each other, 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 his 1997 version, two huge nets were constructed of aluminum wire, with the links 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 colossal trap. The second net 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 Net's "wire words" was composed of personal observations provided by individuals who aided the artist in the net's construction. Xu Bing’s choice to include sheep in the installation stems from his appreciation of the way they observe their surroundings.
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.