Excuse Me Sir,Can You Tell Me the Way to Asia Society? 请问,亚洲协会在哪?
2001

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Institution: Asia Society, New York
Materials: computers

Commissioned as a permanent installation by the Asia Society, New York, this work consists of a series of four flat computer monitors of diminishing size mounted sequentially on a wall at Asia Society headquarters. Words rendered in Xu's invented ''English Square Word Calligraphy'' appear first on the largest monitor. The characters then begin to break apart and move across the first screen, disappearing and then reappearing on the second and third screens in a continuous motion. Arriving at the last screen, the characters reassemble themselves into ordinary English script, revealing a text-book conversation beginning with the phrase ''Excuse me sir, can you tell me how to get to the Asia Society?''

Evoking the phraseology of an elementary English-as-a-second language textbook, Xu's text points to the commonality of experience of new immigrants to the United States. Since the viewers standing in front of Xu's installation are in fact already at the Asia Society, this request for directions implies the deeper existential question of ''Where are we, in reality?'' Experienced within the specific environs of the so-called ''Asia Society New York,'' Xu's work plays with the concept ''I am within you, you are within me'' - the same concept explored in his ''English Square Word Calligraphy.''