Xu Bing, Tianshu 天書, Book from
Beijing, AD 1988
Book from the Sky, which in its complete form is a room installation, ranks among the most discussed and best published works of contemporary Chinese art.
Xu Bing’s volumes are composed of 4,000 self-invented characters which cannot be decoded. Whether in its full form or as a single volume, this work provokes fundamental questions about Chinese identity and its relationship to the written word, which has long been intertwined with concepts of authority and morality.
The artist believes that writing is the essence of culture, and his subversion of it alerts us to the ever-present need to communicate and the dangers of distorting or eliminating intended meaning.