The Glassy Surface of a Lake 明镜的湖面
2004

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Exhibited: Xu Bing:The Glassy Surface of a Lake, Elvehjem Museum
Materials: Cast aluminum

...The towering new creation that cascades from the top of the Elvehjem's Paige Court is a celebration rather than a memorial. "The Glassy Surface of a Lake" (formerly titled "Net") is inspired by a passage in Henry David Thoreau's "Walden," a meditation on the profound purity of an utterly still lake. In the passage, the famous naturalist writer inverts his viewpoint to envision the lake hovering overhead so "you could walk right under it to the opposite hills."
Xu has re-created that vision in the museum: the suspended lake takes the form of the very letters of Thoreau's passage. Thousands of wire-linked aluminum letters hover at the top of the three-story museum court and, in the middle of the "lake," letters tumble down to the first floor. As we gaze up this shaft of metaphorical liquid, what are we meant to see?
In his fresh perspective on the lake, Thoreau envisions the lake as no less than "Earth's eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature." Do we see ourselves mirrored in those watery depths? Can each of us measure our nature in this mirror of nature?
For sure, mirroring definitions of the same word ("nature") reflect the play of words and life - and the urgent need to protect both from poisoning rhetoric. If the thousands of wired-together letters lack the elegance of a still lake, Xu, the Elvehjem staff (and UW-Madison students) have nevertheless produced a marvelous confabulation.

-Lynch, Kevin. ''Xu Bing and The Power of Words.'' The Capital Times, 10 Sept. 2004.