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Cheng Xinhao: Silver… and Other Elements

Through Sunday, Oct 6, 2024

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Cheng Xinhao: Silver… and Other Elements

Through Sunday, Oct 6, 2024

Artist Statement:

“In “Silver… and Other Elements”, Pan tells the origins of the seven “Old Coins” he owned in this video, along with the moving of the borderline, the migration of the people, the wind, the rivers, the mountain and the forests.

The Mang people had to constantly adapt to shifting borders and spaces, and the accompanying changes in discourse and symbolic systems, as the relations between China and Vietnam evolved. A striking example is the use of coins: during the Qing dynasty, the Mang people used copper coins made by the Qing government, while with the occupation of Vietnam by the French colonialists, the Piastre, a silver coin issued by France for trade in Southeast Asia, became the dominant currency there.

With the re-independence of Vietnam in the mid-twentieth century and the establishment of the new China, the local currency changed further. Interestingly, however, the silver dollar has somehow survived in the Mang community: no longer as money, but taken out of its original symbolic system and given a new meaning through new practices. In a Mang people’s wedding, the man is required to give a silver dollar to the woman as a bride price. The silver piastre was not used as a general equivalent, but as a token in a different set of rules: if a bride’s family received a silver dollar and there was another son to get married, the silver dollar received by the married girl could not be used directly, but could only be sold or given away, and a new one bought or given to use: thus, the silver piatres entered into constant circulation according to these rules. This has been going on for hundreds of years.

What interests me is the way in which the symbol of the silver coin has been appropriated, how it has been stripped from the system it once was and how it has been revalued. As part of this work, I have created hundreds of new silver coins in the image of the Mang people and distributed them anonymously to local communities in this collaboration with the Guangzhou Times Museum. How will the Mang people use these coins named after their ethnic group? Will it be incorporated into existing exchange systems, or will new discourses and new forms of exchange be created? Will there be stories created and told about these coins? These questions may be revealed at some point in the future.”

-Cheng Xinhao

Artist Biography:

Cheng Xinhao (b.1985 in Yunnan Province, China) currently lives and works in Kunming, China. He received his Ph.D in Chemistry from Peking University in 2013. Cheng’s works are usually based on long-term field studies, centering around his hometown in Yunnan Province. With videos, installations, photographs and words, he personally investigates the polyphonic relationships between logic, discussions, knowledge, and the part that nature, society, and history play within them.