A very good friend of mine bought me Out of Now: The Lifeworks of Tehching Hseih sometime ago, amid a house move. I let it garnish the coffee table for a while, it’s a rather large book for a small lap. I hadn’t heard of him before the Liverpool Biennial show of his work although I had been introduced to him in a side street. Not knowing who he was, I was simply struck by his courteousness. Later, it seemed incredible that someone so disciplined could also be such wonderfully lovely company; too often it is portrayed otherwise. Perhaps it’s time we recognise it takes discipline to remain polite?
Regardless, the exhibition really settled under my skin. Hseih’s Year Long Performances provoke you to by their intensity and the accomplishment of seeing them through. Performance art is not something I have probably been too dismissive of; Hseih’s not only involves genuine sacrifice and investment for lengthy periods of time, but (as the book is proving to me) impacts upon a viewer engaging with the techniques as well as those employing them.
Hsieh asserts in the book that his work is about “wasting time and freethinking”; after depriving himself of space, time and shelter, it therefore seems apt that ‘art’ itself was included in such experiments. I wonder whether that seemed the easiest or oddly enough harder than all.
One Year Performance 1985-1986 (No Art Piece)
For one year, Hsieh did not art, spoke no art, saw no art, read no art, and did not enter any museum or gallery.