Modern-Day Shaman: Cang Xin

June 11, 2012


Cang Xin became interested in art (as well as rock and roll) while he was at music school, but he received no formal training. To this day he employs assistants to help him with paintings and drawings. For him art is more than technique: it is a way of life that sits easily with his self-conception as a modern-day shaman, heir to the nature-magic tradition of his native Mongolia. Cang Xin first seized the public imagination with Communication (1996-2006), a ritual-performance series in which he licked, or tasted, everything from cockroaches and cobblestones to banknotes and a portrait of Jean-Paul Sartre. In another series, Identity Exchange (2000-06), he swapped clothes with strangers. The title of his exhibition Existence in Translation sums up Cang Xin’s grand theme, which pervades works including Shamanism Series: Variation (2006) and Exotic Flowers and Herbs (2007-08): the shamanic idea that all life forms are linked by the endless transmigration of souls. Suihua, Heilongjiang, 1967. He currently lives and works in Beijing.