Old, New, and Post Testament


In honor of the Quatercentenary of the King James Bible, we are posting a modern version created by the Chinese American artist Xu Bing. Just as his 1987-89 project A Book from the Sky was a reaction to the history of writing, calligraphy, and book culture in China, his Post Testament offers a similar response to one of the seminal text of the Western World, the King James bible.

Xu Bing created “three hundred specially printed and bound volumes that in appearance look like weighty tomes of literary significance. The content of the books, however, presents quite a different story: a strange, hybrid text which the artist created by combining the King James Version of the New Testament with that of a trashy contemporary novel, through alternating each word of the texts. As a result, the only way to read the complete text taken from either book is to skip every other word.”


Xu Bing, The Post Testament: Connoting Today’s Standard Version (Madison, WI.: Piblication Center for Culturally Handicapped, Inc., 1993). Artist’s proof copy. Edition: 300. Graphic Arts GAX 2011- in process

The artist’s statement continues, “…regardless of which narrative the reader is focused on, the visual presence of the other narrative cannot be avoided, creating a visual imprint on the reader’s mind. The hybrid text thus generates a new and abnormal reading pattern. At the same time and on another level of cognition, it creates a kind of third narrative that limns the border between avant-garde literature and visual art. Post Testament also allows readers to engage with highly loaded texts that are removed from their usual connotations.”

The Holy Bible, Conteyning the Old Testament and the New: Newly Translated Out of the Originall Tongues and With the Former Translations Diligently Compared … (Imprinted at London: R. Barker, 1611). RHT copy in contemporary paneled red goatskin. Robert H. Taylor Collection (RHT) Oversize 17th-706

For more information: Britta Erickson, The Art of Xu Bing: Words Without Meaning, Meaning Without Words (Washington, DC: Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, 2001). Marquand Library N7349.X8 E742 2001