Museum MACAN presents Xu Bing: Thought and Method

Xu Bing

Museum MACAN, Indonesia’s leading institution dedicated to modern and contemporary art, presents Xu Bing: Thought and Method, one of the most extensive retrospective exhibitions by renowned Chinese artist Xu Bing, this fall. On view from 31 August 2019 – 12 January 2020, the exhibition features a vast display of recognized and significant works by the artist, inviting audiences to delve into his artistic practice and procedure.

Having been first showcased at the UCCA Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing last October, this exhibition marks Xu Bing’s most comprehensive retrospective ever seen in Southeast Asia, and doubles as his first major solo presentation in Indonesia. With an artistic career spanning over 40 years to date, Thought and Method features more than 60 works including drawings, prints, installations, and films, as well as documentary footage and archival material.

Xu’s vision is multiple and myriad: from the early explorations of culture, language, and traditional knowledge systems, to the investigations into cross-cultural contact and globalization in the 1990s, to the recent meditations on technology and modernity in the 21st century. His search for novel methods of articulating new problems, his experimentation with a great number of media, his conceptual rigor, and his unmistakable creative syntax have all served to make his name a metonym for Chinese contemporary art itself.

The exhibition title symbolizes a systematic overview of Xu’s body of work, with major turning points in the artist’s development, including meditations on signification, text, and language, as reflected in works such as Book from the Sky (1987-1991), Ghosts Pounding the Wall (1990-1991), and Background Story (2004-present); explorations of hybridity, difference, and translingual practice, as seen in works like A Case Study of Transference (1993 – 1994) and Square Word Calligraphy (1994-present)

Also recent investigations into the economic and geopolitical changes seen in Tobacco Project (2000-present), Book from the Ground (2003-present), and Dragonfly Eyes (2017), his first featurelength film. In the 1970s, during the Cultural Revolution, Xu became one of China’s “sent-down youth,” moving to a commune on the outskirts of Beijing to learn from and assist local farmers. From traditional explorations in woodcut art and miniature prints, his practice turned towards conceptualism. These provided the foundation for his later career.

In the early 1990s, Xu emigrated to New York, where he embarked on investigations into combining Western forms with traditional Chinese elements. Since 2000, his concerns shifted to globalization, surveillance, and industry. When he returned to China, in 2007, the country’s rapid development and its experimental environment inspired him to create a series of related artworks, including the surveillance camera footage, Dragonfly Eyes, which questions the nature of performance and reality. Source by Museum MACAN and photos Courtesy of Sutton.

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