January 23, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 63  

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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Gu Xiong & Xu Bing provide translations & explanations

By Katy James
Gazette Staff

XuBing 2001-2003
TRANSLATION: “Here is what I mean”

The question: “what do you mean?” is, in its simplest form, a very loaded and complex question. It contains both excitement and nervousness, as it requires a rather substantial explanation.

Two Chinese immigrants and compatriots, Gu Xiong and Xu Bing have artistically responded to this question with the presentation of Museum London’s most recent exhibition, Here is What I Mean.

The exhibit is an artistic reaction to the immigrant experience and “the effects on communication of cultural and geographic displacement.” One can imagine the profound challenges of immigrating to a new country, especially for two young Chinese men coming to North America where cultures are not just different, but have historically clashed.

Xiong contributes a collection of 16 square charcoal drawings on canvas; the pieces convey the simple complications between the two cultures, along with the artist’s experiences of acclimatizing to what we in the West think of as very basic understandings.

For example, the installation includes drawings of a toilet to illustrate the concept of public washrooms, and a telephone to describe this often overlooked luxury. Another drawing is of an open zipper, which recounts the story of Xiong being told his fly was down on a bus; however, Xiong had forgotten his dictionary and couldn’t understand the concept of a zipper.

The exhibit is reflective in its uniqueness of the individual experience of learning a new language and incorporating the East into the West. The exhibit places a beautiful emphasis on literature and communication in the process of transition, which is compounded by a written explanation of the source of the artists’ inspiration.

This written communication between the artist and the observer is often omitted from most artworks, but is important because it serves as another strand to connect to the curious relationship between the idea, the experience and the art.

Here is What I Mean runs until Apr. 11 at Museum London. 421 Ridout St. N.

 

 

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