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date: 07 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Contemporary art has been a site of intense linguistic production for several decades. Visual artists experiment with new ways of displaying or enframing language that contest or subvert dominant language ideologies. Thus artists produce new regimes of language that regulate or unsettle moral or political visions, shaping attitudes and behaviour. The works of the contemporary artist Xu Bing, as well as interpretations of his work by the artist and commentators, demonstrate how artistic production and criticism contribute to language ideological debates about Chinese—in particular, about Chinese writing—and the nature of language more broadly. This chapter discusses aspects of Xu Bing’s biography and artistic practice related to his use of language. It discusses the language ideological positions underpinning four of his major works. It concludes with reflections on what language policy and planning scholars might learn from extending the scope of their interest to text-based art.

Keywords: language ideology, language planning, language policy, regimes of language, Chinese writing, text-based art, Xu Bing

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