Writing the “Orchid Pavilion Preface” One Thousand Times, 1990–95
Five chromogenic prints, 19 1/4 × 29 inches each
This photographic documentation of Qiu’s best-known, process-driven work exemplifies his early interest in the performative aspect of calligraphy, particularly the pedagogical method of repeatedly copying a model until its brush movements become second nature. The “Orchid Pavilion Preface,” written by the patriarch of calligraphy Wang Xizhi (303–61), has long been revered as the unsurpassed model of cursive writing. Repeatedly writing over his free-hand interpretation of the original, Qiu turns the paper into a saturated black field. By focusing on the process of writing rather than its literary content, Qiu asserts that the ultimate goal of calligraphic practice is “a form of ‘written meditation’.”
Saw this at the MET.