Sunday, September 15, 2013

Extreme Art

Experienced a minor epiphany this morning. While mooching around 798 with Gary & Pat, we caught the last day of an exhibition, Time Clock Piece, by the Taiwan-born, New York-based performance-artist Tehching Hsieh. I'd never come across him before, but what an oversight. 
Basically, his works are 'actions' - making art and life simultaneous. In the late 70s / early 80s he made five exceptional - and exceptionally long - pieces. They are:
One Year Performance 1978–1979 (Cage Piece) - In this piece, which lasted from 29 Sept 1978 to 30 Sept 1979, the artist locked himself in a wooden cage, furnished only with a wash basin, lights, a bucket and a bed. During the year, he was not allowed to talk, to read, to write, or to listen to radio and TV. A lawyer, Robert Projansky, notarized the entire process and made sure the artist never left the cage during that one year. A friend came daily to deliver food, remove the artist's waste, and take a single photograph to document the project. In addition, this performance was open to be viewed once or twice a month from 11am to 5pm.
One Year Performance 1980–1981 (Time Clock Piece)For one year, from 11 April 1980 to 11 April 1981, Hsieh punched a time clock every hour on the hour. Each time he punched the clock, he took a single picture of himself, which together yield a 6 minute movie. He shaved his head before the piece, so his growing hair reflects the passage of time.
One Year Performance 1981–1982 (Outdoor Piece)In his third one year performance piece, from 26 Sept 1981 to 26 Sept 1982, Hsieh spent one year outside, not entering buildings or shelter of any sort, including cars, trains, airplanes, boats or tents. He moved around New York City with a backpack and a sleeping bag.
Art / Life: One Year Performance 1983-1984 (Rope Piece) In this performance, Hsieh and Linda Montano spent one year between 4 July 1983 and 4 July 1984 tied to each other with an 8-foot-long rope. They had to stay in a room while not allowed to touch each other until the end of the one year period. The performance was notarized initially by Paul Grassfield and later by Pauline Oliveros.
He followed these with two more works: One Year Performance 1985-1986 (No Art Piece) in which he did no art, spoke no art, saw no art (an impossibility I would have thought), read no art and did not enter a museum or gallery; and the epic Tehching Hsieh 1986-1999 (Thirteen Year Plan) in which he declared "Will make art during this time. Will not show it publicly". 

What is he trying to say with his art? Does one has to say anything? Why does he push himself to such extremes?  Who knows? Maybe even he doesn't?  Apparently he now lives fairly quietly with his wife in Brooklyn.  I've just got one word: Respect.

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