Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

A Sweet Idea to Unite Two Disparate Worlds ; at the Heart of His Work Has Always Been Communication: The Freedom to Communicate without Oppression but Also the Ability to Convey a Message across Boundaries

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

A Sweet Idea to Unite Two Disparate Worlds ; at the Heart of His Work Has Always Been Communication: The Freedom to Communicate without Oppression but Also the Ability to Convey a Message across Boundaries

Article excerpt

WHEN people talk about revolutionary Chinese artists, they're talking about people like Xu Bing.

Raised in Beijing, and a graduate of China's Central Academy of Fine Arts, Bing found his work coming under intense scrutiny in the late 1980s as the Communist government cracked down on dissent in the country following the Tiananmen Square protests.

The incident - in which thousands were injured and at least hundreds of people died - forced many artists to flee overseas, and Bing headed to America, where he would enjoy his first international solo exhibitions and make his name as a poetic critic of Maoist-era politics.

At the heart of his work has always been communication: the freedom to communicate without oppression, but also the ability to convey a message across boundaries.

And so his latest work for the Centre For Contemporary Chinese Art (CFCCA), Book From The Ground, is a natural evolution of those aims.

It uses icons - or emoticons - gathered from international signs, information pamphlets, text language and so on to compile a story told entirely in symbols.

It was seven years in the making, and it started with a sweet.

"My inspiration comes from the bubble-gum wrapper where three images are connected by two arrows - instructing people to throw the gum into the trash can after chewing," says Bing.

"I was thinking to myself, if I use more icons, I can write a longer story or even a novel which of course led to Book From The Ground.

"And you do not need any education background to understand this book; you just need to see how well you adapt yourself into contemporary life.

"Since the Chinese language is hieroglyphs and the reading of the iconographic language is simply in my cultural genes, I think it was easier for me as a Chinese artist to notice and expand the possibility of creating such a book."

Reader experience has been pretty consistent, with many international users understanding the tale.

"I think the younger generation are more likely to find this book easy to read since they have been exposed to these images through the internet.

"Some children even wrote me letters and thank you notes in icon language, which I really appreciated.

"Parents often find this book is a favourite of children who are too young to read. Interestingly, when the family read together, it is the child that is telling their parents what the contents are instead of the other way around. …

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