Body Outside of Body 身外身


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Exhibited:The Book & the Computer: New Parameters across Time and Space, Ginza Graphic Gallery, Tokyo
Materials: printed post-its.

This work was created for an exhibition at the Ginza Graphic Gallery in Japan examining the dynamic changes taking place in the book industry in the countries that use Chinese characters in their language systems - Japan, Korea, and China. Xu's work focusses on the idea of language and digitalization. The title of the work is derived from a passage in the classic 15th century Chinese novel Journey to the West, in which the supernatural Monkey, Sun Wukong, does battle with a demon and finds himself losing. Using the magical method of ''shen wai shen'' (which in modern terms could roughly be translated as self-cloning) Monkey takes a strand of his own hair and puts it in his mouth, thereby releasing thousands of miniature replicas of himself that do battle with and defeat the demon.

Using Chinese, Japanese and Korean, respectively, to write out this passage from the tale, the artist displayed the three versions on separate panels mounted on the wall, with each character inscribed on its own small, square notebook. Audience members were invited to freely tear off sheets of characters, unexpectedly revealing underneath a word written in a different language. This random mixing resulted in a scrambling of languages within one narrative, like different texts jumbled together in a computer error, or the cacophony resulting from different languages being spoken at once. At other times the random mixing of words regained a kind of normalcy and coherence.

On the back of each sheet of paper was inscribed Xu Bing's personal website address: One implication of the work is the notion that through Internet technology one can attain something of the magical capacity for self-generation displayed in the story.