ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Gu Xiong & Xu Bing provide
translations & explanations
By Katy James
| 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
Here is What I Mean runs until Apr. 11 at Museum London. 421 Ridout St. N.