"Shu: Reinventing Books in Contemporary Chinese Art"

Text as art is an ancient trope, and yet anyone who sees language itself as beautiful cannot help but be drawn in by Seattle Asian Art Museum's "Shu: Reinventing Books in Contemporary Chinese Art." Situated on a pedestal in a back room, one work especially stands out: a book splayed open, the surface of its pages moving. Xu Bing's Silkworm Book is just that, a blank book seeded with silkworm eggs. White and pale, translucent yellow, the tiny spheres read like raised dots of Braille. A fluttering video of silk moths is superimposed on top of the textlike lines of eggs, the images of moths landing like characters in motion. After wending your way through floor-to-ceiling roomfuls of calligraphy in a range of media (from paper to porcelain to glass), the stuttery moth movements might put you in mind of the repetitive gestures of calligraphy. You may also consider the pace of words, and the elusive movement of language itself. In an exhibit showcasing one culture's reverence for books, you'll be reminded of the value of these insects and the place that silk occupies in Chinese history and culture. This video piece recasts a previous work (created in 1994, image above) in which the artist cultivated silkworms on books: The black larvae traveled across the page like text in motion. This video piece is an approximate visual re-enactment of that living installation. Seattle Asian Art Museum, 1400 E. Prospect St. (in Volunteer Park), 654-3100, www.seattleartmuseum.org. Suggested admission: $5. Ends Dec. 2.

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