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Tehching Hsieh

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Tehching Hsieh
Born (1950-12-31) December 31, 1950 (age 73)
Nan-Chou, Pingtung County, Taiwan
OccupationPerformance artist
Known forPerformance arts
Tehching Hsieh
Traditional Chinese謝德慶
Simplified Chinese谢德庆
Tehching Hsieh's exhibition One Year Performance 1978–1979 at MoMA, 2009

Tehching (Sam) Hsieh (謝德慶; born 31 December 1950; Nan-Chou, Pingtung County, Taiwan)[1] is a Taiwanese-born performance artist. He has been called a "master" by fellow performance artist Marina Abramović.[2]

Early life[edit]

Hsieh was one of 15 children from a family in southern Taiwan. He dropped out from high school and started creating paintings; he went on to create several performance pieces after finishing his three years of compulsory military service in Taiwan. In 1974, he jumped ship onto a pier on the Delaware River, near Philadelphia,[3] and made his way to New York City, working as a dishwasher and cleaner during his first four years there.


From 1978 to 1986, Hsieh accomplished five One Year Performances; from 1986 to 1999, he worked on what he called his "Thirteen-Year Plan". On 1 January 2000, in his report to the public, he announced that he had "kept himself alive". He has stopped making art since then.[3]

In 2008, MIT Press published Out of Now, The Lifeworks of Tehching Hsieh[4] by Adrian Heathfield and Hsieh – a monograph with documentation, essays by academics and artists and an extended conversation. The year after its release, he told the New York Times, "Because of this book I can die tomorrow."[3]

The next year, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York exhibited a collection documenting his work.[5] The exhibition, titled "Performance 1: Tehching Hsieh" and organized by Klaus Biesenbach, was the inaugural installation in a series of original performance pieces at the museum.[6] Positively reviewed by the New York Times, the show led to a larger recognition of Hsieh's work.[7] The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York also showed one of his works the same year as part of its retrospective exhibition, "The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia: 1860–1989."[3]

Curated by Adrian Heathfield, Taiwan's Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale in 2017 featured Hsieh's work in an exhibition titled "Doing Time".[8][9]

Early works[edit]

Jump Piece[edit]

In 1973, Hsieh documented himself jumping out of a second-story window in Taiwan, and breaking both of his ankles on the concrete.[10]

Durational works[edit]

He is most known for six durational performance pieces completed between 1978 and 2000.

One Year Performance 1978–1979 (Cage Piece)[edit]

In this performance, which lasted from 29 September 1978 through 30 September 1979, the artist locked himself in an 11.5-by-9-by-8-foot (3.5 by 2.7 by 2.4 m) wooden cage, furnished only with a wash basin, lights, a pail, and a single bed. During the year, he did not allow himself to talk, to read, to write, or to listen to radio and TV. A lawyer, Robert Projansky, notarized the entire process and made sure the artist never left the cage during that one year. His loftmate Cheng Wei Kuong came daily to deliver food, remove the artist's waste,[3] and take a single photograph to document the project. In addition, this performance was open to be viewed once or twice a month from 11 am to 5 pm.[11]

One Year Performance 1980–1981 (Time Clock Piece)[edit]

For one year, from 11 April 1980 through 11 April 1981, Hsieh punched a time clock every hour on the hour. Each time he punched the clock, he took a single picture of himself, which together yield a 6-minute movie.[12] He shaved his head before the piece, so his growing hair reflects the passage of time.[13]

Documentation of this piece was exhibited at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 2009, using film, punch cards and photographs.

This work was the first of Hsieh's ever to be displayed in the UK at the Liverpool Biennial in 2010.[13]

During the summer of 2017, this piece was displayed at the Tate Modern Art gallery in London.

In his 2013 list of the greatest performance art works, Dale Eisinger of Complex wrote that One Year Performance 1980–1981 (Time Clock Piece) "is thought to have bridged a gap between industry and art in a way particular to the individual that Warhol's grand factory pieces couldn't achieve."[14]

One Year Performance 1981–1982 (Outdoor Piece)[edit]

In his third one-year performance piece, from 26 September 1981 through 26 September 1982, Hsieh spent one year outside. He did not enter buildings or shelter of any sort, including cars, trains, airplanes, boats, or tents, with one exception: he was arrested and brought into the police station for a total of 15 hours. It came after he wielded nunchucks in self defense during a street altercation. He spent the year moving around New York City with a backpack and a sleeping bag.[3]

Art / Life: One Year Performance 1983–1984 (Rope Piece)[edit]

In this performance, Hsieh and Linda Montano spent one year between 4 July 1983 and 4 July 1984 tied to each other with an 8-foot-long (2.4 m) rope. They had to stay in the same room when inside, but were not allowed to touch each other until the end of the one-year period. Both shaved their hair in the beginning of the year, and the performance was notarized initially by Paul Grassfield and later by Pauline Oliveros.[citation needed]

One Year Performance 1985–1986 (No Art Piece)[edit]

For one year, Hsieh unaffiliated himself with art in any way possible: he did not create any art, didn't talk about art, didn't look at anything related to art, didn't read any books about art, and did not enter any art museum or gallery.[3]

Tehching Hsieh 1986–1999 (Thirteen Year Plan)[edit]

At the beginning of this epic piece, Hsieh declared, "Will make Art during this time. Will not show it publicly." This plan began on his 36th birthday, 31 December 1986, and lasted until his 49th birthday, 31 December 1999.

At the end, on 1 January 2000 he issued his concluding report, "I kept myself alive. I passed the December 31st, 1999." The report consisted of cutout letters pasted onto a single sheet of paper.[3]


Hsieh's pieces are not feats of stamina nor consciously motivated by a desire to suffer (although they have been described as ordeals),[15] but rather are explorations of time and of struggle. According to the American cultural critic Steven Shaviro, Hsieh's work can be seen as being about imprisonment, solitude, work, time, homelessness, exposure, marriage, human relations, and the way in which art and life are related.[15] The artist himself states his work is about "wasting time and freethinking".[4]

A little after 1999, Hsieh declared he was no longer an artist.[3] He has, however, continued to give interviews to an art audience. He has expressed that he likes the work of Praxis (Delia Bajo and Brainard Carey).[16]

Influence on contemporary artists[edit]

In 2014, Benjamin Bennett embarked on a series of live actions broadcast by streaming on the Web named Sitting and Smiling. For each section he stares motionless in front of the camera for a period of four hours, twice a week without pause since the project started. He told Vice magazine that he was inspired by Hsieh's work.[17]

Personal life[edit]

Hsieh lives in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. Ai Weiwei is a former landlord and an old friend.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Tehching Hsieh". 2008. Retrieved 2014-08-18.
  2. ^ Kate Sutton. "Manchester United". artforum.com.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Sontag, Deborah (25 February 2009). "ART: A Caged Man Breaks Out at Last". New York Times. Retrieved 2015-03-18.
  4. ^ a b Adrian Heathfield; Tehching Hsieh (December 2008). "Out of Now: The Lifeworks of Tehching Hsieh". Retrieved 2014-08-18.
  5. ^ "Performance 1 on Art.Base.BASE". Art.Base.
  6. ^ "Performance 1: Tehching Hsieh". www.moma.org. Retrieved 26 September 2017.
  7. ^ Sontag, Deborah (25 February 2009). "A Caged Man Breaks Out at Last". New York Times. Retrieved 26 September 2017.
  8. ^ "'Doing Time': Tehching Hsieh In Conversation With Adrian Heathfield". 2017. Retrieved 2017-05-19.
  9. ^ "Taiwan Features Tehching Hsieh at the 2017 Venice Biennale". Hyperallergic. 2017-04-24. Retrieved 2017-05-19.
  10. ^ "The Performance Artist Who Went To Impossible Extremes". 2017. Retrieved 2020-12-03.
  11. ^ Smith, Roberta (19 February 2009). "A year in a cage: A life shrunk to expand art". International Herald Tribune. Retrieved 19 February 2009.
  12. ^ "Tehching Hsieh: One Year Performance 1980-1981". UCCA Center for Contemporary Art. Retrieved 2023-09-16 – via Google Arts & Culture.
  13. ^ a b Biggs, Domela, Waldron and Kirk (eds) "Liverpool Biennial International Festival of Contemporary Art The Guide". Liverpool Biennial of Contemporary Art Ltd. ISBN 978-0-9536761-8-7.
  14. ^ Eisinger, Dale (2013-04-09). "The 25 Best Performance Art Pieces of All Time". Complex. Archived from the original on 2017-12-15. Retrieved 2023-09-16.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  15. ^ a b Shaviro, Steven. "Performing Life: The work of Tehching Hsieh". Archived from the original on 3 June 2008. Retrieved 8 June 2008.)
  16. ^ Delia Bajo; Brainard Carey (August–September 2003). "in conversation: Tehching Hsieh". thebrooklynrail.org. Archived from the original on 2009-03-22.
  17. ^ Suzdaltsev, Jules (2015-01-22). "This Guy Is Filming Himself Sitting and Smiling for Four Hours a Day". Vice. Retrieved 2024-02-21.
  18. ^ Russeth, Andrew, "When the Only Thing Left Is Time, T: The New York Times Style Magazine, Sept. 20, 2020, p. 34

External links[edit]