Skylight onto the True Abyss

Xiang Jing x Guo Xiaoyan, Tr. Andrea Lingenfelter

state of anxiety.

Guo: So the things you do and your creative work, they often start with a sense of anxiety?

Xiang: I’ve been like this ever since I was a child—it’s my nature. I respond to everything as if it’s a huge tragedy. I’m over-anxious, and I overthink. When I was a child I thought something was wrong with me. For instance, if I was in a place with a lot of people, and it was a happy occasion, I would find myself suddenly overcome with sadness. I can clearly remember one incident, which happened when I was 12 or 13. My parents both worked/had careers, so when I was little they left me in the care of the family of an auntie from Shandong who lived in the unit next to ours. They were good people, honest and down to earth. There were three sons and a daughter, and I called them Big Brother, Second Brother, Little Big Brother, and Big Sister. I was at my Big Brother’s wedding, which was a big celebration, when I suddenly felt this sadness welling up inside me. I couldn’t hold back the urge to cry. I knew it wasn’t appropriate, but I was in a strange mood, and I couldn’t help it. I ran straight to the bathroom, shut the door behind me, and started bawling at the top of my lungs. For most of anyone else, it was just a normal wedding. There was nothing to set anyone off; and it wasn’t as if I had a crush on my Big Brother or anything like that, nor did I have any particular opinion about marriage. It was just a case of a perfectly ordinary happy occasion touching some weird nerve of mine, and I burst into tears.

Guo: Maybe you’ve always been a sensitive soul?

Xiang: Definitely. Everyone who makes art is sensitive, that’s for sure. It’s just that most of my chosen outlets have a strong physicality. When I began to write and make art, I was able to create some order out of this. I was no longer solely dependent on physicality, on the body, and in the end I was able to transform it into something much more encompassing and far-reaching. This is why, in the beginning, art was a way for me to redeem myself. I gradually acquired the ability to take things from my body that were too intense, too messy, and filter them.