The Museum of Modern Art, Floor T2, Theater 2
Xu Bing. *Book from the Sky*. 1987–91. Mixed media installation/hand-printed books and scrolls printed from blocks inscribed with “false” Chinese characters. Installation view at Taipei Fine Arts Museum, 2014. © Xu Bing Studio

Chinese artist Xu Bing—who grew up surrounded by books in an intellectual family and later studied printmaking—demonstrated an early interest in language, calligraphy, and typography. Since the 1980s, he has created works that challenge the meaning of language and what we see. His groundbreaking installation Book from the Sky (1987–91) is made up of scrolls and thread-bound books filled with what appears to be Chinese text, but upon close examination turns out to be fake characters. His later work further expanded his investigation of the relationship between images/objects and what they mean to us. Background Story (2004–ongoing), a light-and-shadow box that appears as a landscape painting display is in fact an installation of found materials. His first feature film, Dragonfly Eyes (2017), uses Internet-sourced surveillance footage to construct a fictional tale set in modern China. Xu joins us for an illustrated talk about his universe of language, meaning, material, fiction, and truth.