Book from The Sky (Xu Bing)

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Walk into its space. You are not supposed to be able to read Xu Bing’s “Book from the Sky.” I thought it was the most amazing thing, like Torah from heaven, transforming the place of the installation space. The Chinese characters are all fake. Pure text, none of the characters mean anything. Years ago, I saw a photograph, probably in the New York Times. It’s now on view, at the Met as part of Ink Art exhibition of contemporary Chinese art. Bannered along the walls, the book scrolls down from the sky in long swoops; it waves along the surface of the floor. I’ve never seen anything like it. Rendered object-like, the world has been made neither clear nor intelligible. Not really a book or a communication, “Book from the Sky” is just an idea, suggesting something infinite, the idea of a book, the idea of communication, pure writing, non-intentional.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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