Tehching Hsieh: 謝德慶...Dec. 31,1950-****...Taiwan/United States
"Sometimes I find
I have no answers to questions about that experience."
One of the true pioneers of performance art is Tehching “Sam”
Hsieh. Through his art, he makes connections between life and art. His is best known for his year long performances. Why a
year? “Because one year is the largest single unit of how we count time. It takes the earth a year
to move around the sun. Three years, four years is something else. It is about being human, how we explain time, how we measure
our existence.” He came to the United States from Taiwan, “I was in the equivalent
of the merchant marines and immigration wouldn’t let me in so I walked off the ship and stayed here.”
His first one was in 1978, when he built an eleven and a half by nine by eight
foot barred jail cell in his loft apartment. For that year he had no contact with the outside world, no TV, no sound, no talking,
no reading, no writing. His food was delivered and his waste was removed in a bucket each day. “This
kind of work is not about suffering, it is about existence. It is about a technique, my concept is to show this technique.
I think technique is the most important thing.”
Some of Hsieh’s other performances were a year of punching a card in
a time clock every hour on the hour twenty-four hours a day for one year; stayed outside for a year without ever going into
a building, subway, train, car, airplane, ship, cave, or tent in New York City, and even spent a year making no art, no talking
about art, no looking at art, no reading about art, or going to a museum or gallery (even though his not making art was art).
One of his more known performances was in collaboration with fellow performance artist Linda Montano.
Linda Montano…1942-****…United States
Montano was born in Saugerties, New York. Her art training was at the College
of New Rochelle; Villa Schifanoia, Florence, Italy; University of Wisconsin; and Hobart Welding School, New York. She emerged
as a pioneering performance artist. One of her trademark performances was wearing only one color for a year. Beyond her clothing
color, she also stated in spaces of that color, listened to a single sound, and only saw people once a month. The color corresponded with the color of the Hindu energy system or Chakra. She called
this 7 YEARS OF LIVING ART and than repeated the performance in ANOTHER
7 YEARS OF LIVING ART. “We all need a goal, an ideal, a job and I use art to give myself
that. My goal is a compassionate mind, a silent mind. Wearing all red, all white, does this for me!” She defines
performance art as a “tool which assists artists to ecstatically feel/face
life.” She teaches at the University of Texas at Austin.
In Hsieh’s performance with Montano, which they are both well known
for, the two were tied together with a eight foot rope. They were not allowed to touch one another for the full year. At the
end of the year they cut the rope, they shook hands, hugged, and punched each other. The work was about couples. Sometime
not together and not alone; a purgatory of relationships if you will.
Hsieh’s last major project was a thirteen year project of making art.
He began the project on his thirty-sixth birthday and ended on his forty-ninth birthday, completed between 1986 and 1999.
After the project was done he released the results to the public. His definitive comment about his project was "I
kept myself alive." What does he mean by that? “On another planet I could do something. Our
time is very short here. When we speak of historical figures we say they were born this year, died that year. Or, we say,
they are still alive. That’s all we talk about really. It’s just like the dinosaurs, all we can talk about is
when they lived and died. So for me, I use similar language. I can only say that I have kept myself alive. More details are
unnecessary, survival is all. What I have done in those years remains in my mind.” After that project his art
career was over. “I’m fifty years old now. I am experienced enough to know the past and probably
to know the future. I don’t have much left, but I can still help or do something to make things better. It is just not
through art…I no longer call myself an artist, but I cannot change the way you see me.” In 1994 Hsieh became
an American citizen and he lives in Brooklyn, New York with his wife.