Xu Bing – Phoenix, MASS MoCA, Massachusetts, USA, 2013
Photo: Hideo Sakata
Chinese artist Xu Bing spent two years creating his work, Phoenix. The installation features two monumental birds fabricated entirely from materials harvested from construction sites in urban China, including demolition debris, steel beams, tools, and remnants of the daily lives of migrant laborers. It is a beautifully crafted symbol of the complex relationship between the labor force, accumulation of wealth, and history of China.
The internally illuminated 12-ton birds are suspended mid-air, dwarfing viewers; the male Phoenix Feng measures 90 feet long, while the female Huang reaches 100 feet in length, beak to (steel) tail feathers. Xu Bing is widely considered to be among the prominent Chinese artists of today.
In 2005, MASS MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art) presented a monumental and uniquely American sculptural installation by Dave Cole. Cole’s project The Knitting Machine comprised two excavators specially fitted with massive 20′ knitting needles which produced an oversized American flag, which can be seen as both a celebratory gesture of pride and a commentary on America’s role in world affairs.