Xu Bing at the British Museum: Background Story 7
Lesson created by Luise Guest using
Video from The British Museum YouTube Channel
Xu Bing, like Ai Weiwei, experienced the humiliation and detention of his father during the Cultural Revolution. Like Ai, he has seen the dramatic changes that have taken place in China since his childhood. Like Ai, he spent many years working in New York. Much of his work is about the power of language, and how we communicate or fail to communicate. This series of works examines China's past.
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Xu Bing has been creating installations for Background Story since 2004 at the invitation of various museums in China and abroad, the last being shown at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York in 2010. The six previous works in the series have been in a horizontal format as responses to traditional handscrolls, but at the British Museum he will work for the first time in a vertical format to correspond to the traditional Chinese hanging scroll. This change of format will present new challenges and significantly alter the impact of the work.Background Story 7 will be nearly 5 metres tall and will consist of a light box made with a wooden frame and a panel of frosted acrylic that is lit from behind. Xu Bing will use unexpected and found materials such as hemp fibres, dry plants, corn husks, crumpled paper and debris sourced from sites across London, and will place them on to the back of the acrylic. His deft work creates imagery that when seen from the front looks like the brush strokes of a Chinese painting and represents landscape elements such as mountains, water and buildings, in this case echoing Wang Shimin’s hanging scroll. However the illusion is shattered when the viewer sees the seemingly chaotic scattering of debris at the back of the work. The work will be created on site by Xu Bing and his studio assistants and will be completely dismantled afterwards. The installation will be filmed for the first time to allow viewers to share the inside story of this artistic creation in a daily time-lapse segment on the British Museum website.Xu Bing’s work explores the relationship and tension between art and illusion. Xu intentionally challenges the relationship between the image and medium. Unlike the traditional Chinese painter who creates a simple illusion by committing a landscape scene to paper in a realistic manner, Xu extends the artist’s remit. He creates a work that reads as a landscape painting, but is neither a landscape nor a painting and uses three-dimensional materials to imitate two-dimensional brushstrokes. Each of Xu’s unique installations pushes the viewer to confront the limitations of the way we habitually process and respond to what we see.
Select ONE work by Xu Bing - it could be 'The Book from the Sky', 'The Book from the Ground', 'New Calligraphy Classroom', 'Where the Dust itself Collects' or 'Background Story'Describe HOW the work is made and the way the artist communicat
In a small group of three students, explore this statement and explain how Background Story and his practice more generally makes us question what is real