Name： Li Qiang. “Qiang” is not the name my parents gave me. I wanted a name that is unique and I changed it when I was studying at university. I had it officially registered as my new name. Qiāng, spoken in the 1st tone in Mandarin and in the 4th tone in my dialect, means gun and I associate the pronunciation with a strong smell of gun powder; very intense. These days the name comes in handy on the Internet; there is nobody else with this name (in Chinese characters).
Chinese zodiac sign： Horse
Education： I graduated from the Jiangsu Academy of Education, Nanjing. I would say the general education environment in the whole country, not only in Nanjing, is not very good. In my college, for instance, and in many other colleges, the teachers point out to the students that they are trained to be qualified teachers of arts rather than splendid artists. Even in those top universities of art studies like the Central Academy of Fine Arts, students are not trained to be fine artists.
Profession： Independent Artist
When you are at home, what is your favorite activity? What do you enjoy the most?
I enjoy reading and thinking, discovering something meaningful, and experiencing something special.
My life is based around my studio. I am not very fond of social activities. In my studio, I spend a lot of time reading. As early as in the 1980s, I was already reading books about the most up to date thoughts on arts and culture from the West. These books include books on philosophy, religion and other areas. I have always been keeping the habit of thinking and following trends of thoughts. Currently I am reading the book “The Crowd”, written by a well-known French social psychologist (La psychologie des foules, Gustave Le Bon, 1895).
Name three of your daily routine activities:
Cooking, cleaning, and constantly changing the environment in my studio
What is your favorite food?
How much money do you spend on food per day?
Around 30 RMB
Where is your hometown? (if not Beijing: do you miss your hometown? if so, what do you miss most?)
My hometown is Donghai county in Jiangsu Province. Yes, I do miss it. I miss my son.
There were at least several thousand of people in my village. I have four brothers and I’m the third child of the family. But none of my brothers does something that has anything to do with art. They do business or work in a court. Every year when I visited home for the Chinese New Year I found that even though I have brothers, we really had nothing to say to each other. It was the same when I was in the village. No one from the locals understood what I was doing. In 2006 a professor of anthropology from New York University came to make a documentary about me. Her name is Angela. She spent three years, from 2006 to 2008, shooting my life. She said it was really strange that I became an artist out of this village, with nobody from my family, or from where I lived, understanding me.
What is your most precious childhood memory?
To go outside to see the “ghost fire” in the evening (ghost fire is a phenomenon caused by chemical reactions, for instance on cemeteries where methane gas from decomposing bodies can create a lightning glow).
Ghost fire was actually not what we liked most to play with in childhood, but it is the most impressive thing that we remember from our childhood. We saw something glowing from afar, from some remote and desolate place, which was not necessarily ghost fire. But when we were small it was easy for us to have inexplicable fear for the glowing from the back of the house or just from darkness. The adults, especially our parents, always frightened us with stories about where in the village people died and where in the village horrible things used to happen. We kept these stories in mind, so whenever we passed by those places we felt terribly scared. You know the tassels of the corn, right? I used to be scared by those when I was small. My mom told me that when I was about two or three, I started crying at seeing those tassels because I believed those were beards.
What are the three most important things in life for you?
Love, Faith, and “to be alive”
Love means my love for my family, for my friends, for my life, for myself, and for life itself. I think love is the most basic. Faith is also very crucial in one’s life. Here I’m not referring to religious beliefs, not the God nor the Buddha. Instead I am referring to an ideal, something that is loftier than life, a pursuit of higher values including the invisible values. The third one is “to live”. Actually it should be placed at the top. Life is the most important, everything else – states, democracy, all kinds of “–isms”, fame as well as money – becomes valuable only on the basis of life, or else it is all empty.
What are, according to you, the values that one needs to live up to in life?
The biggest power that God endows us is the power to become ourselves.
Would you say you are a) happy b) somewhat happy c) somewhat unhappy d) unhappy
What do you expect will the future bring for you?
I feel that I am in a very comfortable position at the moment, so I hope my future would be an extension of my current status. I believe my art creation in the coming four or five years would be more unrestrained. I will try to break through all the boundaries that I created for myself before – like I can do this or I cannot do that. I will try to make something bette r, something which is closer to my inner world
For me, my art creation has to come from my inner world. It is only in this way that I can make my work my own and distinguish it from artworks of other artists. My works are not limited; I do everything – performing art, print, sculpture and documentary. I can’t say what else I will be doing in the future; it’s hard to predict.
What is your religion?
I don’t have religious beliefs. I believe in freedom.
Video of the 360 degree panoramic photo
(click full screen icon for best view)
the below video is on Vimeo; banned in China