On his blog, Evan Osnos interviews artist Xu Bing about his most recent work, “pair of steel phoenixes fashioned from abandoned construction materials, hoisted up on cranes in the center of Beijing”:
Where did the concept of the piece originate?
I went to a construction site and I was shocked. China has so many modern buildings, but you can’t imagine how poor the working conditions and primitive living situations were. I think there is a huge contrast. That was when I decided to use waste materials. I want to use the waste materials from the building construction to create a piece of work that hangs inside the building itself. I thought that could have meaning. Because this building was very extravagant.
As I saw it, using garbage and construction waste to make a piece of work would make the building look even more extravagant. They complement each other. The material would make the building look grander, and this grandeur would make the phoenixes look even rougher and more realistic. So I thought I was helping those who want to show their wealth. But then I was worried that the owners wouldn’t agree to do it, but they did gradually accept the idea.
[Photo from the New Yorker]