Book From the Sky: the Repetition of Words (temporary translation), 1987-1991
The “Book from the Sky” is full of divine characters, but their meaning remains hidden from ordinary mortals. This is how Xu’s opus magnum could be interpreted. In fact, there is nothing to read in this book – at least not in the usual sense. Since the 1980s, Xu has been developing Chinese characters that look real but are fictitious. He contrasts these approximately 4000 fantasy characters with the 4000 characters in use in China.
The “Book from the Sky” is printed in an ancient technique, printing with movable characters, which was invented in China around the year 1000.
For “Mobile Worlds,” Xu overprinted Chinese newspapers with his fictional characters. The clever Western interpreter may detect here a subtle allusion to press censorship. In fact, Xu raises a much more fundamental problem: How do we describe things when there are no words to express them?