Friday, 19 April 2013

Series of Repetitions: Ziliudi

We work outwards towards erasure
one of two ways:
towards absence
or towards a presence
which obliterates.

On paper, this is either
ink or no ink,
over- or under-exposure.

Darkness is the wood-block
unincised, applied night-black.
To engrave is to create light
which ultimately blinds.

We work outwards towards erasure
when the landscript goes eutrophic
and chokes, or when the patchwork
is unpicked, leaving only blank.

We work outwards towards erasure
when the press is silent
and blocks of ink
become one plot, or none.

On paper, this is either
death or conception.

Brightness is the wood-block
gouged out, leaving only
a penumbra. Crops, words
and thoughts explode.

We work outwards towards erasure
approaching the edge of the scroll.
We find a void of character:
a distillate soul.

Poem by Giles Watson, 2013. 'Series of Repetitions: Ziliudi' is an artwork by Xu Bing, currently exhibited in the Ashmolean museum. It is a room-long scroll (54.5 x 864 cm) which has been printed eleven times in sequence with a single wood-block at different stages in its carving. The central panels show an aerial view of a landscape, in which the fields are composed of Chinese characters for family names. The far left panel is almost completely black, and the far right panel is almost completely white

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