Book as Gift: When Beauty Visits, Lee Mingwei

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Let me start with a caveat: the object of exchange in Lee Mingwei’s artwork isn’t strictly a book, it’s an envelope containing a story. I wanted to discuss it though because the artwork itself is irresistible.

Documentation of performance 'When Beauty Visits' by artist Lee Mingwei
Lee Mingwei – detail of performance ‘When Beauty Visits’, 2017. Image © Chris Gibson, 2017

The work, which is essentially a performance takes place in a beautiful, modernist garden designed by the Italian architect Carlo Scarpa. As visitors mill around the garden a performer quietly (and seemingly randomly) invites one of the guests to take a seat in the garden and admire the view, listen to the gentle sound of the flowing water and watch the world go by.

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Book as Keepsake: Al Saadi’s Diaries, Abdullah Al Saadi

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Years ago, inspired by the Bell Jar, I read Silvia Plath’s diaries. The salient memory of that labour was how artfully she translated even the most banal daily event, giving a literary sheen to often underwhelming everyday existence. Al Saadi works the same kind of magic here, but in a visual way.

Abdul Al Saadi - Al Saadis Diaries 2016
Abdullah Al Saadi – Al Saadis Diaries 2016. Image © Chris Gibson, 2017

The artist’s work comprises brief handwritten diary entries stored in small readymade containers such as cigarette tins and chocolate boxes. Although I can’t read his texts, the look of the scrolls and concertinas in their characterful tins each seem to tell a particular story.

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