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Nin Gui Xing
(Your Surname, Please)
An Interactive Language Project

[View QuickTime Sample. 2.1 MB]

The Project - Work in Progress

The artist Xu Bing has conceived Nin Gui Xing (Your Surname, Please), a computer version of his unique work of art based on the written Chinese language. In this dynamic piece, viewers at computer workstations will type in their names in English and watch them gradually transform on the screen into "pseudo-Chinese characters." They will, at first glance, look like real Chinese characters but can easily be deciphered as arrangements of letters composing the viewers' names. Viewers will then be able to print out their pseudo-Chinese character name.

Approximately 3,000 names (i.e., Clinton, Gore, Roosevelt, Reagan, Doe, Smith, Singh, Garibaldi, Heinz, etc.), each beautifully designed by Xu Bing to look like a brush-written Chinese character, will be encoded in software. Intermediate stages will be programmed in order to produce the animation, as demonstrated by the example presented above.

The Artist

Xu Bing is one of the most acclaimed contemporary Chinese artists, acknowledged for his originality by the foremost critics of both contemporary and Chinese art. He is renowned for his imaginative manipulation of brush strokes to form "pseudo Chinese characters" - forms that look like real Chinese characters yet do not exist in any Chinese dictionary. These are printed on long sheets of paper, which are hung as installations to stunning effect. His remarkable installation Book from the Sky is included in the exhibition Inside Out: New Chinese Art and will be on display at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center from September 15 through January 3, 1999.

The Asia Society is currently looking for sponsors in order to realize this piece. Please contact Helen Abbott at
[email protected]

Digital file created by Christian Ditlev Bruun.