Skylight onto the True Abyss

Xiang Jing x Guo Xiaoyan, Tr. Andrea Lingenfelter

Anguish as Destiny
Xiang Jing: For me, the entire creative process is fraught with problems, and that’s why I’ve given this exhibition the caption, “Upon This Anguish I Repose”[1]. This is because my work springs from a state of angst, a state of utter bewilderment. It all starts with excess, or as Rilke wrote, “An excess of being wells up in my heart.”[2]
That excess is a product of my innate flaws; and it’s this overabundance that allows me to have these thoughts, these anxieties, this uneasiness and terror—all of it. Or to put in another way, if you believe in a so-called Creator, this universe, this world, came into being as a result of God’s superabundance, like something superfluous.

Guo Xiaoyan: Angst—it’s a common state in life; and I think that artists are even more susceptible to it… I got the feeling when you brought it up just now that you weren’t so much talking about your past work as a presentiment of something hanging over your future work.

Xiang: I borrowed the term from Kierkegaard’s retelling of the biblical story about God testing Abraham in his discourse on the spiritual world. God told Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son to test his faith. It depicts a struggle of human nature. I don’t really know the story that well, but at the moment when Abraham pulls out his sword, a lamb appears to take the place of his son. God decides that Abraham has passed the test. I read this story in Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling. His exact words are: “Only the one who works gets bread, only the one who was in angst finds rest.”

Guo: That’s great.

Xiang: “Only the one who works gets bread, only the one who was in angst finds rest, only the one who descends into the underworld saves the beloved, only the one who draws the knife gets Isaac." These are Kierkegaard’s words. Of course, my work does not explore the realm of morality in any way; I was simply motivated by the phrase “only the one who was in angst finds rest.” I think that for me, angst is a sort of destiny, and everything that happens springs from a