See you again next year, Summer! I’ve been living in the UK for three years now and I have to admit that summer this year was the warmest season that I’ve experienced here. For your information, I grew up in the tropical country and I was also struggling mentally dealing with the weather. So, does it mean that climate change is real?

Micro Music Stage

Highlight for August

Needless to say, no matter how warm or how peculiar the weather was, the member of Mu Collective still successfully came up with a lot of prototyping and experiment events. First of all, just in case you’ve missed, from June until August, we had an experiment with our “micro-space” by modifying our little corner in front of our display shop in the weekly basis. One week it was a music stage, the next week was a living room, and the following week it was a library. Also in the month of August, we officially launched our urban garden in front of our space, so please pop in and enjoy the garden. I personally can’t wait for the harvest time.

Micro Library

In addition, there were also several diverse events in our space, organized by our collective members. We had the Creative Mandarin Workshop, ArTogether, Microweaving Workshop, Cultural Calligraphy, and also the Sit-Stitch-Stuffed in our effort supporting Southampton Pride 2018. From all those events, one particular surely leaves a very deep impression for me.

The Creative Mandarin Workshop and The Genius ‘Xu Bing’

The Creative Mandarin Workshop was facilitated by one of our Mu Collective member, Jia Ren (Jojo). In this workshop, we were trying to get a glimpse of Mandarin in a very unique way. Jojo gave all of the workshop participants the Mandarin version of our names and how they were translated into our real-life characters. It was very poetic and captivating approach. Unique enough, since we have more than one native Mandarin speakers in our workshop, they always came up with different Chinese names for every single person and we can choose which one we like or which one describes our personality the best. In a way, it also reflects how rich and rigorous Chinese characters are.

Post event picture

At the end of the Workshop, Jojo introduced us to a Chinese artist named Xu Bing. He is very well-known for his mind-provoking works using text, words and language and his unique perspective always challenges his audiences on how we use themto perceive the world around us. For example, let us take a look at his famous hand signature which he created. Please look closely and try to read it.

Xu Bing’s Signature

If you have not noticed yet, his famous signature is not composed of standard Chinese/Mandarin characters. The signature is created using the Latin alphabets of XU BING which is arranged so that they resemble Chinese characters. Take a look closely one more time, and now you will see the X, the U, the B, the I, the N, and the G. Xu Bing. Now, since I already gave you some hint about it, can you try to read what is written in the next picture?

Art for The People

Indeed, it is “Art for the People”. This particular work or technique is widely known as Xu Bing’s Square Word Calligraphy. In fact, he created a general guideline for this calligraphy and you can create one for yourself.


Square Word Calligraphy by Xu Bing


However, his initial work and one of the most notable works that he has created is a collection entitled “A Book from the Sky”. This ‘book’ is filled entirely with meaningless glyphs designed to resemble traditional Chinese characters. The book is composed using a set of 4,000 characters, as this is roughly the number of characters in common usage in modern written Chinese, and all of them can be considered ‘gibberish’ characters, even for native Mandarin speaker. Imagine the creativity level requird to produce 4,000 characters that look cnvincingly like Chinese characters, but they have to be meaningless. Now, take a glimpse on the title page of “A Book from The Sky”. If you cannot read it, it’s probably because you assume that it’s Chinese character. The truth is, even for native Mandarin speakers, they are gibberish.

A Book from The Sky – Title Page

A Reflection

His works have shown me how genius he is as an artist. After the workshop, I can’t help but wonder, sometimes our prejudice takes us over and we suddenly stop to understand and stop to listen. Now, if we just stop for a while and spend a little effort to learn or to find something that we have in common, we will finally realize that we are not that much different. We are easily frightened by everything that we do not know, but should it make us stop to try to understand each other? This workshop was changing the way I perceive the society and even the world.

Finally, If you want to know more about Xu Bing, he was featured in the “Brilliant Ideas” series by Bloomberg. You can watch the video on the link provided below. And to end this experience, I just want to ask you, “what do you think?” Special shout out to Jojo who has facilitated the workshop. Well done!