by Wenlan Chia
January 28th, 2009
The first time I knew of Tehching Hsieh was when I was in sixth grade, across the Atlantic Ocean in Taiwan, reading from the local newspaper about the work he did in New York. I was too young to understand why he worked as he did, yet I was trying to make sense out of it.
This is an artist who does not make art in the traditional sense, as his art is living, moving, breathing â€“ his art is himself. Between 1978 and 1986, he made several one year performances. In the Cage Piece, he locked himself in a cage and spent a year in solitary confinement. One year he punched a workerâ€™s time card every hour on the hour - Time Clock Piece. He spent one year completely outdoors without any shelter - Outdoor Piece. Rope Piece is when he tied himself to someone else for a year, making no physical contact. And No Art Piece is where he spent one year with no art in life.
In 1994 I started to know him as a friend. The first time I went to visit him in his basement apartment in Brooklyn, he showed me the edited video recording of Cage, Time Clock and Outdoor. Although I had to see the footage years after, and in an extremely compressed form, I was left speechless. Before he played the video, he had to leave me watching them alone as he did not want to watch them anymore.
He is, in my mind, one of the best artists of our time. He inspires me profoundly on every level. His work is meticulously passionate and epically mysterious. I often think his art, or life, is like being on deserted land - throw a small stone as hard as you can so that you feel its sharpness penetrating the air, and the stone goes so far, you cannot possibly imagine where it lands.
I only wish he is recognized more than what he has received. A few months ago, during my fashion show after party, he showed up holding a cane. He said it was from an old wound - his very first performance in his hometown when he jumped from the second story. I remembered when he told me this story years ago and we laughed.Â At the party, he told me he is going to have an exhibition at MOMA and Guggenheim this year. I could not be more thrilled for him.
Tehching Hsiehâ€™s website:
Performance 1: Tehching Hsieh
January 21â€“May 18, 2009
Guggenheim New York
The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia, 1860â€“1989
January 30-April 19, 2009