What is Xu Bing’s gigantic bird Phoenix?

Xu Bing - Phoenix
Xu BingPhoenix, MASS MoCA, Massachusetts, USA, 2013
Photo: Hideo Sakata/massmoca.org

How was ‘Phoenix’ created?

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 the history of China.

The internally illuminated 12-ton birds was 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.

Photos

Xu Bing - Phoenix
Xu BingPhoenix, MASS MoCA, Massachusetts, USA, 2013
Photo: Hideo Sakata/massmoca.org

Xu Bing - Phoenix
Xu BingPhoenix, MASS MoCA, Massachusetts, USA, 2013
Photo: Hideo Sakata/massmoca.org

Xu Bing - Phoenix, Mass MoCA, 2013
Xu BingPhoenix, MASS MoCA, Massachusetts, USA, 2013

Xu Bing - Phoenix, 56th Venice Biennale, 2015
Xu BingPhoenix, 56th Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy, 2015
Photo: Alessandra Chemollo/orsenigochemollo.com

Xu Bing - Phoenix, Shanghai Expo2010, Shanghai, China
Xu BingPhoenix, Shanghai Expo2010, Shanghai, China, 2010

Xu Bing - Phoenix, Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, NYC, USA, 2014
Xu BingPhoenix, Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, NYC, USA, 2014
Photo: The Art Caravan/theartcaravan.ca

All images by Xu Bing/xubing.com unless otherwise noted.

Videos

Xu Bing speaks about Phoenix

2min 57sec

Installation of Phoenix

3min 32sec

Phoenix at the Cathedral of St John the Divine

2min 12sec

Xu Bing’s artist talk at MASS MoCA

1h 5min 17sec

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