Magazine article Artforum International

Tehching Hsieh

Magazine article Artforum International

Tehching Hsieh

Article excerpt

JACK TILTON / ANNA KUSTERA GALLERY

From September 30, 1978, to September 29, 1979, Tehching Hsieh lived inside a locked cage, eleven-and-a-half by nine by eight feet. He wore a white laborer's uniform and refrained from speaking, reading, writing, watching television, and listening to music or the radio. The room was a barren environment, furnished only with a cot, mattress, pillow, blanket, sink, and wastebasket. His only human contact came when an aide brought food and disposed of his bodily waste, and on several scheduled occasions when the public was invited for visits in the spirit of exhibition openings.

Hsieh was not languishing in jail but living in a cell built inside his Tribeca studio. Although we might want to think of the time he spent in the cage as, say, spiritual penitence, the performance's blunt strength lies in the literal duration of time spent and life lived. Art and life converge to the extent that both are devoid of metaphor. The cage piece was the first of a series of yearlong performances that has constituted most of Hsieh's artistic practice. In one such project, he lived on the streets of Manhattan without setting foot indoors from September 1981 to September 1982. In another, he tied himself to collaborator Linda Montano with an eight-foot rope, which stayed attached from July 1983 to July 1984. These "One Year Performances" were capped by his most recent project, which terminated at the end of the millennium. For this opus, Hsieh made art for thirteen years without showing it publicly, and then proclaimed that the art made during that period was that "I kept myself alive."

"Tehching Hsieh: One Year Performance Lecture/Documents 1978-1999" offered a full record of these works. Presented as a series of documents, the exhibition was a spare but richly informative display of photographs and project descriptions. …

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