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徐冰 Xu Bing |究极版的图画故事书 Ultimate Picture Storybook

“When I first devoutly represented the world, the mundane things in life attracted me. This comes from my character, life, and original understanding of beauty.”


—Xu Bing 徐冰

About artist


Xu Bing, born in Chongqing, Sichuan in 1955, obtained a master’s degree from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing in 1987 and was awarded the “Genius Award” by the MacArthur Foundation, the highest honor in the field of American culture, in 1999. He currently lives and works in New York and Beijing.

徐冰,1955年生于四川重庆,1987年获北京中央美术学院硕士学位,获美国文化领域最高荣誉麦克阿瑟基金会“天才奖”, 1999年,他目前在纽约和北京生活和工作。

“Book from the Ground” is Xu Bing’s art project since 2003. Xu Bing called this period “living between regions”. Xu Bing, who frequently travels between his New York studio and various curatorial locations worldwide, spends most of his time at the airport. Before the iPhone was invented, airports were almost a microcosm of globalization. During the waiting period, a large number of symbols filling the airport caught Xu Bing’s attention. He has a specific innate sensitivity to “growing materials” as a conceptual artist.

“地书”是徐冰自2003年以来的艺术项目。徐冰将这时期称为“跨地域生活”。经常往返于纽约工作室和世界各地策展地点的徐冰,大部分时间都在机场度过。在 iPhone 发明之前,机场几乎是全球化的缩影。候机期间,充斥机场的大量符号引起了徐冰的注意。作为一名观念艺术家,徐冰对“生长的材料”有着与生俱来的敏感性。

“I think these symbols have a lot of vitality and malleability.”


“Book from the Ground” was conceived ten years ago. Xu Bing discovered that the little icons on chewing gum told a tale:


“If you can create a story with only five symbols, you can absolutely make a novel with thousands of symbols.”


Xu Bing has always wanted to write a book since then. This book does not have a standard script and may be read by anybody, including illiterates. The line between academics and regular people has been blurred at this point.


Book from the Ground: From Point to Point


This vitality stems from the effective transmission of information through identifiers; on the other hand, more identifiers have been included in the super-regional consensus system due to the rapid advancement of standardized industrial production. Using these symbols, Xu Bing then spent 10 years making a wordless book called “Book from the Ground: From Point to Point.”

这个生机源于通过标识符有效传递信息;另一方面,由于标准化工业生产的快速推进,更多的标识符被纳入超区域共识体系。徐冰花了 10 年时间用这些符号制作了一本无字的书,名为《地书:从点到点》。

This is a storybook; the plot is very standardized, about a person’s life 24 hours a day. The standardization of life and the standardization and symbolization of materials used are related. Regardless of cultural background, anyone active in current life may read this book. In other words, as a natural person conversant with contemporary life, one may grasp the tale without needing first to translate it into Chinese. If you take it a step further and are an emoji fan, you can almost see the life of the characters in the book and smile knowingly.


Is this what you face when you get up in the morning?


“The alarm clock went off at seven a.m. I open my eyes, switch off the alarm clock, and notice that the weather outside the window is dreadful. Therefore, I should close my eyes and go to bed.”


“There is a boy who adores a girl and wants to offer her flowers,” says the opening sentence. Following that, the boy began to get to know the female. These phenomena often occur in our daily lives.

第一句说 “有一个男孩喜欢一个女孩,想给她送花“。之后这个男孩就开始进行认识女孩的行动。这些事经常发生在我们的日常生活中。

I believe that any friend, regardless of race or culture, who views this picture in modern society will find it easy to grasp and highly engaging; a language without sound brings people closer together since it may be anything we know and love, sound, and tone.


New languages, characters, and symbols are quickly forming due to the Internet’s development, and mixed-use has become the new normal. Young people collectively refer to them as“alien texts”, which vaguely contrasts the elements and foundations of a specific part of “Book from the Ground”.


“The alarm clock rang! Where am I, and who am I? I was dozing, so I switched on the light, and wow! Is it already 7:00 p.m.? I’m leaving for America at 11:00 a.m. today! Please hurry and pack my bags. My last reward was hidden in my suitcase!”

“闹钟响了!我是谁,我在哪里?原来我在睡觉,把灯打开,哇!已经七点了?我今天上午11:00 要去美国!快点收拾好我的行李。把我收到的最终奖品是在行李里!”

“The big prize is a 7-day trip to the United States! Return airfare is included! This package consists of a seven-day stay in a five-star hotel! Serve a lavish meal! “


It’s more of a tale without words and full of imagination than an art form. Because of distinctions in ethnic groups, regions, and nations, the language and characters used in communication constitute a logical force internally, but also generate cognition disparities between various individuals and nationalities; Xu Bing’s keen observation and subsequent reflection on the work can serve as a point of reference for readers now and in the future, yet the world’s transformations follow a predictable path.


Books on the Ground – Drawing Language


Following the introduction of “Book from the Ground,” Xu Bing actively built a font library in the hopes that in the future, everyone may use the program to input in their native language, which will then be automatically turned into a graphic language. In 2007, Xu Bing ordered someone to build a set of interactive program “glyph file” software, that could transform the text into the ground book’s sign language, and everyone may play and observe in the exhibition hall.


The installation consists of two computers that face each other and are separated by a transparent frosted glass wall. The conversation is printed on both sides of the glass wall with “icon text” explaining how the artist came up with the concept to create this sign language. The user sits at the computer desk, face to face. Despite their proximity, neither can see the person on the other side of the glass wall.


People today frequently experience this sense of closeness and remoteness. Email is used to send information even in the workplace, and two-sentence messages are sent back via remote satellites. Two PCs in the exhibition area are equipped with specialized chat software.


When a user enters English, it is immediately translated into “icon text” for Xu Bing and shown on the screen. Two persons can use this “text” to talk or trade information.


MetaWords in Metaverse


The “Book from the Ground” by artist Xu Bing has been cast into NFT and will be auctioned on the Lion NFT platform.

艺术家徐冰的《地书》已投进NFT,将在Lion NFT平台拍卖。

“The oracle bone inscriptions used more than 260 symbols to complete various narrative scenes of sacrifice, divination, and history writing, and there are many more modern symbols.”


Therefore, Xu Bing understood MetaWords as a kind of language infrastructure in the metaverse era. Using this infrastructure, an“art explosion” belonging to the public began in the metaverse.

所以,徐冰把MetaWords 理解成为元宇宙时代的一种语言基础设施,利用这种基础设施,元宇宙里开始了一次属于大众的“艺术大爆炸”。

The metaverse broadens the definition of globalization. After witnessing several ebbs in globalization in recent years, Xu Bing believes that the current contrarian tendency will either be a very brief historical stage or will be replaced by new forms. He is even more excited about the metaverse as a chance for people to rediscover the importance of globalization and even encourage everyone to embrace it.


*all images and artworks belong to the artist & his representing galleries respectively


Translation  Alice Yip


本篇文章来源于微信公众号: SHMADNESS


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