ABC...
1991

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Exhibited: Xu Bing: Recent Work, Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York
Materials: Ungiazed terracotta installation / Woodblock

The theme of this work is the awkwardness encountered in linguistic exchange between different cultures. It is comprised of thirty-eight ceramic cubes that represent a sort of transliteration from the twenty-six letters of the Roman alphabet to Chinese characters. The characters that have been chosen are such that, when pronounced, render sounds equivalent to the English letter they represent. The Chinese characters are caved on the upper face of the each ceramic block in the form of a printer's stamp and the Roman letter is printed on the side of the block. For example, the English letter 'A' is rendered by the Chinese 'ai', which means sadness. 'B' is rendered 'bi', which means land on the other side, on the other shore. Some letters need two or three Chinese characters to 'transliterate'. For example, 'W' is rendered 'da', 'bu', 'liu' which means big, cloth and six. This activity may begin with a becoming logic, but ultimately it leaves its subject, transliterated language, virtually meaningless and almost ridiculous.