Readers Martha B. and Bob, quick on the draw the both of them, read last night’s post on alphabets and pointed me to the work of Chinese artist Xu Bing, whose current exhibit is showing at the Sackler through this weekend. The square word caligraphy is neat enough — English words represented as pseudo-Chinese ideograms; there’s apparently an OS X program at the exhibit which will do the trick for arbitrary user input — but the installation "A Book from the Sky", in which Xu created a thousand plausible but nonexistant Chinese-style ideograms then wrote a book using them. The idea of a real book in a fake language reminds me of "The Library of Babel", Borges’ story of the universal library which contained not just every book but every possible book. The idea of combinatorial writing, works that spanned the word-space, was taken up in the ‘60s by France’s avante-garde OuLiPo group (thanks, Mark!), who wrote poems based on things like linear algebra and repeated permutations of lines and stanzas. And Xu apparently is an immaculate craftsman, using beautifully realized caligraphy, bookbinding, and printing in service of his nonsensical works. I’ll have to stop by Saturday before I head out to a barbecue, because it sounds like a wonderful blend of concept and craft. Also, there are monkeys, and monkeys can only improve art. None