“Lean to the East“
Xu Bing born and raised in 1955, Zhejiang Province, came into China at a time of mass change for the country on a scale that’s never been seen until recently with the economic boom the country is now experiencing and advancing beyond what’s ever been seen before in a country. With whole new districts, cities and areas springing to life where life never existed. It all stems back a few years before Xu was born, China had just been hit by the Chinese Revolution, that soon saw communism come to power and the peoples republic of China step up from the rubble the country had just been beneath. The revolution had taken its toll on both the country folk, the way of life and the land, poverty and starvation was soon to follow plunging China’s once great people into a repression, casting a dark shadow over such a vast area that has always remained a secret and mystery to the world of the west. The time that was soon to follow became known as the “Mao era”.
With Mao Zedong famously saying ” The Chinese people have stood up”, which is down to however you interpret it, the Chinese finally stood up and went about the reconstruction of a devastated country that was on its knee’s, especially after Mao’s reign causing thousands of deaths if not 100’s of thousands, from the countless wars, executions and deprivation of China’s people. It was around this time that Mao said “Its time to lean to the east” in other words, stay away from the west and build alliances with the soviet, a communist nation itself at the time, having known that the west does not take communism and dictatorship lightly and would’ve intervened. From what the country was going through Xu went over to the west, offering to learn the skills of design and set up a new life for himself, as of which many other citizens did, but before that he went on to start as a printmaking apprentice at the academy of Fine arts in Beijing, publishing his works across the continent, spreading further and further each time until people started to understand who he was. It wasn’t until later in his that America crossed his path and he got a taste of freedom in his design, getting to weave what he already knew of eastern traditions with those of the western civilizations, creating a new form of design in himself as a result. It was a time of experimentation and self exploration for him, delving deep into himself and drawing upon every skill he had possessed in his life. From the development in the west, Xu soon became known as a phenomenon back in his country, entering both China’s first ever China avant garde exhibition and being requested to do numerous talks widespread over the globe. His life has forever been one on the up and blossoming from the first days of his design move, if anything he should be given more recognition out in western design. As in the west we don’t really ever hear or understand what shifts the east if going through in design and its often forgotten, but why. Again its down to the conflict and locked horns both the east and the west have been in since global power became a key player in society.
Xu is not only a idol to look upto, but also a visionary, a forefather for design having created so much inspiration and driving force for the generations to come, and also not slipping into the seclusion of staying away from the west. The 3rd generation of which I have touched upon already can also relate to a man that pushed the boundaries and combined cultures, something of which the youth of design will embrace in a society that doesn’t shun design rejoices and pushes it for a better future.