Last night I was fortunate enough to hear Tehching Hsieh speak at the New School. A small lecture hall, but filled to capacity with academics, art students, critics, and art lovers to hear the man most famous for his One Year Performances. Born in Tawain, Hseih dropped out of high school at 17 and began painting only to give it up after his first one man show at the gallery of American News Bureau in Tawain. Shortly after he stopped painting he made a performance action "Jump Piece" in which he broke both of his ankles. While explaining this performance he showed a photo of the action piece mid-jump, right before he hit the ground, breaking his bones.
Starting in the 1970s (living in NYC as an illegal immigrant until he was granted amnesty in 1988) Tehching Hsieh made 5 One Year Performances; each which he explained in detail last night with his statements, witness letters, photographic evidence, and posters. On September 30, 1978 Hseih declared in his statement:
I, Sam Hsieh [Sam is the name he chose to conceal his illegal immigrant status],plan to do a one year performance piece, to begin on September 30, 1978.
"I shall seal myself in my studio, in solitary confinement inside a cell-room measuring 11'6" X 8'.
I shall NOT converse, read, write, listen to the radio or watch television, until I unseal myself on September 29, 1979.
I shall have food every day.
My friend, Cheng Wei Kuong, will facilitate this piece by taking charge of my food, clothing, and refuse."
This particular performance was exhibited as an installation piece in the MOMA in early 2009.
Overall, I was thoroughly impressed with the discipline that went into his One Year Performances. He took performance art to the next level, and the rawness and socio-cultural aspect of his work is one that would be extremely difficult for a contemporary artist to replicate nowadays, especially in 2011 NYC versus 1981-82;this is the time period when Hsieh lived outdoors for one year, never going inside. His statement for the project further goes on to proclaim:
"I shall not go in to a building, subway, train, car, airplane, ship, cave, tent.
I shall have a sleeping bag.
The performance shall begin on September 26, 1981 at 2 P.M. and continue until September 26, 1982 at 2 P.M."
To directly quote the biography on his website (ONE-YEAR-PERFORMANCE): "Using long durations, making art and life simultaneous, Hseih achieved one of the most radical approaches in contemporary art."
I only referenced two of his One Year Performances, but please visit his website and explore more of his extraordinary work.