Liverpool Biennial 2010: Tehching Hsieh
18 August 2010
The Liverpool Biennial Festival of Contemporary Art is coming round again in September for its 10th edition, and this year’s theme is Touched. FACT has translated the Biennial theme into the idea of ‘a mother’s touch’, with many of the pieces exploring the ideas of separation and loss.
One of the artists that will be exhibiting at FACT is Taiwanese performance artist Tehching Hsieh. It’s the first time his work has ever been shown in Europe, and since he retired from art entirely in 2000 it’s an exciting opportunity to catch one example of his gruelling performance pieces.
Tehching focuses his work on the passing of time, and explores a number of themes relating to the seemingly meaningless things humans surround themselves with, and what happens when we lose them. He deprives himself of social contact and material comforts, and asks whether we actually need them to be able to survive?\r\n
He explored these themes via a series of Time Pieces, each of which took place over a year. Between 1978 – 79, for his first Time Piece Cage Piece, he spent an entire year locked in a wooden cage. He stripped his life bare of any comforts or commodities, and his only social contact was with an assistant who brought him his food and dealt with his waste. They did not speak, and he had no access to radio or television.\r\n
His third instalment in the series, The Outdoor Piece, involved Tehching living entirely outdoors for a year. He did not enter any roofed building for the entire time, nor did he travel by car, bus, train or enter the subway. It could almost be seen as the reverse of his first piece; exchanging a year of confinement for a year of entirely open space. Both asked questions about the basic needs for a human to live comfortably – how can we remain as ourselves when totally stripped of social contact, material goods, or ways to record thoughts and feelings? Is it really these things that make us who we are? What is it about our dwellings and having somewhere to anchor ourselves to that gives us a sense of identity? What happens to us when we are separated from our relationships and lose the intimacy of daily life?\r\n
The piece that will be showing at FACT, Time Clock Piece, ties all of these ideas in together. For this, Tehching punched a clock card every hour, on the hour, for an entire year. He photographed himself on 16mm film each time he punched the clock to illustrate the passing of time. His performances highlight the notion of time and identity, and that year of his life will be viewed at approximately one second per day. Watching it at speed will be the opposite experience to the painstaking year he spent creating the performance, and prompts us to question our personal relationships with time.
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