The overarching theme of the bizarre conceptual pieces on display in Shu: Reinventing Books in Contemporary Chinese Art appears to be that the written word has lost all relevance in a society that has better things to do than read. The texts that accompany these works at the Seattle Asian Art Museum are by turns deliberately blotted out, mutilated, or printed using invented letters that resemble an alphabet, yet are wholly unpronounceable.
The Beijing-based Zhang Xiaogang contributes the most entertaining variation on this in Written Memories (2005), a collection of 20 framed photographs jammed together, in four rows of five, on the same wall. All the shots, whether they’re in color, black and white, or hand-tinted sepia, are from 1970s television shows. The images include a book open to a photo of Chairman Mao, a folding chair propped against a wall next to black leather recliners in an empty room (which would you rather sit in, the picture seems to ask), and . . .
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