TEHCHING HSIEH: Performing Life


© Tehching Hsieh

T e h c h i n g   H s i e h

Performance Artist

The Performance Work of Tehching Hsieh first came to my attention in the early 1980s and then I lost track of him. Tehching Hsieh executed one-year long performance pieces, including one year of living outdoors in lower Manhattan. My memory was that he’d done a one-year performance saying NO to everything, and the following one year, saying YES, and then disappeared. That made sense. A year of saying YES to everything could put you on a short-lived path of no return.

Tehching Hsieh’s web page clearly states his performance history:

  • One Year Performance 1978-1979. “The Cage Piece.” Tehching Hsieh spent one year locked inside a cage he had constructed inside his loft.
  • One Year Performance 1980-1981. “The Time Piece.” Tehching Hsieh punched a time clock every hour on the hour 24 hours a day for one year.
  • One Year Performance 1981-1982. “The Outdoor Piece.” Tehching Hsieh stayed outdoors, in lower Manhattan, for one full year.
  • Art / Life One Year Performance 1983-1984. Tehching Hsieh spent one year tied to fellow performance artist Linda Montano, by an 8′ rope — and would never touch each other.
  • One Year Performance 1985-1986. Tehching Hsieh spent one year without making art.
  • Final Performance: 1986-1999. Tehching Hsieh goes undercover, does not show art publicly.

To read detail of these individual performances see Performancelogia: The Life Work of Tehching Hsieh by Steven Shapiro.

The Museum of Modern Art gave Tehching Hsieh a one-person installation in 2009, organized by Klaus Biesenbach, Chief Curator, and Jenny Schlenzka, Assistant Curator for Performance, Department of Media. The MOMA show was a reinstallation of “The Cage” piece, supplemented by photo documentation of the artist’s year-long interior isolation in 1978-1979, a grim seemingly non-artistic pursuit. In the New York Times article, “A Caged Man Breaks Out at Last,” written by Deborah Sontag (February 25, 2009), Tehching Hsieh is quoted, “I am not so creative. I don’t have many good ideas.”

Feeling not so creative and not having many good ideas is a common thread felt in my own traditional-art-painting studio in year 2013 and well, as we all know, there is an end to everything.

Out of Now, MIT Press, Hardcover | $49.95

| ISBN: 9780262012553 | 384 pp. | 10 x 12.5 in | 800 color illus.| December 2008


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