Capturing the tension, interaction and relationship between different civilizations


Commissioned work is usually a double-edged sword for an artist.

An exceptional piece could be a boon to boost the artist’s status in the artistic community, while a mediocre piece could become a “scar” on his heart.

The “Gravitational Arena” by artist Xu Bing, recently installed in Exhibition Hall X of the Pudong Museum of Art (MAP), belongs to the former.

In fact, the same space was used to present a work commissioned by Cai Guoqiang, a world-renowned Chinese firecracker artist.

Moreover, Xu’s installation goes far beyond people’s expectations, both in form and content.

Upon entering the exhibition space, visitors will be amazed at the size of this giant work.

A colossal vortex of figures forms in the hall, reaching down to the ground over 30 meters above sea level. Besides the tensions and contortions caused by gravity, the figures are reflected by a large mirror on the floor, creating a feeling of mutually penetrating depth between the work and the space.

Produced by the Lujiazui Group and curated by MAP, the artwork is made up of 1,600 metallic “Square Word Calligraphy” characters. It took nearly a month to set it up in a space where visitors can look through windows to different floors.

The new work is also part of Xu’s solo exhibition, currently running at MAP until November 13.

For those unfamiliar with Xu and his previous works, it’s a good idea to do some research online before visiting or carefully read the exhibition brochure as well as the text on the walls inside the exhibition. ‘space. “Square Word Calligraphy” is one of Xu’s most famous series.

For “Square Word Calligraphy”, the artist designed a calligraphic system in which English words look like Chinese characters. Like a language breeder, he combines Chinese calligraphy with English script to create a new composite that contains real meanings.

“Square Word Calligraphy” is an excerpt from “Philosophical Investigations” by Ludwig Wittgenstein. From the perspective of linguistic philosophy, Wittgenstein points to a misunderstanding in human cognition resulting from the use of language. Inspired by this, Xu thinks “like all languages, perspective” mediates between our mental thoughts and the outside world. Various languages ​​involuntarily shape our way of thinking, like any language, so our thinking must have some blind spots.”

Born in Chongqing in 1955, Xu is one of the first contemporary Chinese artists to achieve overseas recognition, which continues to this day. He is widely acclaimed as one of the leading conceptual artists working with language and semiotics (the study of signs and symbols and their use or interpretation). Xu’s works have been exhibited in many renowned art museums around the world, including the National Art Museum of China, the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, as well as the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

The title of the work – “Gravitational Arena” – also embodies various layers of deep meanings for the artist.

“The shape and mirror reflection of the work resembles the ‘wormhole model’, while ‘the arena’ reveals the theatrical experience when viewed from different perspectives on different floors,” Xu said. . “By modeling the entanglement between matter in-universe, I hope this piece evokes the viewer’s reflection on the tensions, interactions, and wrestling relationships between different civilizations.”

Exhibition Information

Dates: until November 13, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Venue: Pudong Museum of Art

Address: 2777 Binjiang Avenue, Pudong New Area

Capturing the tension, interaction and relationship between different civilizations

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