Xu Bing: SQUARE WORD. An Introduction to Square Word Calligraphy and ... Red Line Tracing Book. New York, 1996. 24; 14 pp. Many b/w illustrations. 2 vols. 42x28 cm. Paper.


[Hanshan Tang Books of London has stocked copies of «Square Word», with reference code: XU0SW1.]

In his more recent work, «Square Word Calligraphy», Xu Bing has devised a method of writing English words in rectangular arrangements which resemble Chinese characters. There is a code of calligraphic script elements which map to the 26 Roman letters, after which relatively simple rules for the composition of the square words allow you to write English using Chinese calligraphic principles. As a piece of conceptual (grammatological) art, Xu Bing has composed and published a manual of 'Chinese-style calligraphy' written entirely in these English 'square words' themselves - it looks like a Chinese book, but once the code is learned it is perfectly legible as English - along with a companion volume of calligraphic models for (ink and brush) writing practice. (Books of this type are familiar and common in Chinese educational contexts.) At his most recent exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art in London multiple copies of this book were installed in a classroom complete with teaching video, and gallery-goers were welcome to try their hand at this new 'Chinese' way of writing English. In his continuing work, the artist says he is interested in producing more translinguistic/transcultural pieces which are also (potentially) for everyday use; for example, a computer font for English square words, where typing the letters of English words would generate the corresponding square words on your monitor and within your favourite word processor.

Xu Bing's [Tianshu] «Book from the Sky»