Helsinki Himalayan Exhange 赫尔辛基喜玛拉雅的交换
1999

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Institution: Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Finland
Materials: Mixed media installation / Donation box, found materials, ink, paper.

This installation is the culmination of an intensive, month-long stay in the Himalayas which Xu Bing spent trekking and camping in the mountains outside Katmandu, Nepal with a group of six international artists, as part of a project initiated and organized by the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art in Kiasma, Finland.

Inspired and moved by the Himalayan landscape, Xu was also deeply troubled by the poverty he encountered there, and felt unable to reconcile his experience of this harsh reality with his role of contemporary artist. Finally, he conceived a work whose ultimate purpose was philanthropic in nature, seeking to create a cycle of give and take.

Drawing inspiration from the Nepalese landscape, the artist created a series of works that fused calligraphy and landscape art, essentially constituting a new form of artistic expression. At the Kiasma gallery in Helsinki, Xu created an installation which featured both these original works and reproductions of the works printed on postcards made of Nepalese paper. A donation box which the artist had acquired from a rural village in Nepal was also set up in the gallery so that those viewing the art could return something to the people and culture of Nepal. Audience members were invited to take a postcard and then to place a donation in the box. At the end of the exhibition period, these donations, totaling more than US$5,000, were given to an educational fund for Nepalese schoolchildren and ultimately used to construct a schoolhouse in an impoverished mountain village. For Xu Bing this work was a means of using art to acknowledge and address in some way the imbalance between rich and poor countries.