Xu Bing. The Phoenix Project.

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Xu Bing’s Phoenix Project is a work that the artist undertook from 2007 to 2010. The project comprises two monumental phoenixes entirely fabricated from materials harvested from construction sites in urban China, including demolition debris, steel beams, tools, and remnants of the daily lives of migrant laborers.

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The sculptural installations were briefly shown at the Today Art Museum in Beijing and then at the Shanghai World Expo in 2010. This year, the giant birds appear on the international stage for the first time, as the centrepieces of an exhibition of Xu Bing’s work at Massachusets Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) that opened on 27 April and will run until 27 October 2013.

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“The mythic phoenixes bear witness to the complex interconnection between labor, history, commercial development, and the rapid accumulation of wealth in today’s China.” (from the exhibition text, MASS MoCA)

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At MASS MoCA, the two internally illuminated 12-ton birds are suspended mid-air from the ceiling inside the museum’s football field-sized Building 5. The male phoenix Feng measures 90 feet long, while the female Huang reaches 100 feet in length, from beak to tail feathers.

The Phoenix Project was commissioned by Ravenel Art Group and is on loan courtesy of the collection of Mr. Barry Lam.

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At this year’s 55th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia, Xu Bing presented two models of the phoenixes at  “Culture ∙ Mind ∙ Becoming.”, a collateral event at the biennale. Made from polyamide, they are replicas of the giant birds and form part of an installation including a video animation, which is a commentary on China’s rapid urban development and constant building construction.

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Click here to view the MASS MoCA exhibition’s brochure.

Photographs: Phoenix, La Biennale di Venezia, photos by Prof Danilo Ardia. Photographs: Phoenix, Mass MoCA, Courtesy of Kevin Jennings (Mosaic Pictures) on flickr.com.

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