Eminent in China as a decorative art form, and, more importantly, as a scholarly foundation for learning, calligraphy is the art of the written word. Power of the Word presents the work of nine contemporary Chinese artists who both celebrate and critique the conventions of Chinese calligraphy, presenting a fresh understanding of the relationship between language and art. Because of the prominent place of calligraphy in Chinese culture, the manipulation and alteration of text make a powerful metaphor for the struggles to both change and retain Chinese identity in the face of rampant westernization. As China struggles to adjust to a free market culture from hierarchical Communist – and earlier Imperial – control, words take on both transformative and subversive powers. When seen in the context of an American museum, further issues of (mis)communication between cultures rise to the surface, raising questions about identity, difference, and assimilation.
Curated by Chang Tsong-zung and organized by Independent Curators International, Power of the Word features paintings, sculpture, and installations by Fung Ming-Chip, Gu Wenda, Hung Tung, King of Kowloon (Tsnang Tsou-Choi), Mao Zedong, Qui Zi-Jie, Wang Yong-Ming, Wu Shan-Zhuan, and Xu Bing. The selected artists come from diverse backgrounds, including politician, academy-trained artist, computer programmer, and self-trained artist. Power of the Word debuted at the Taiwan Museum of Art in 2000.