Tehching Hsieh. Spectacular Failure
He has not made an artwork in 16 years. Since the completion of his 13-year-long “Thirteen Year Plan”, which can hardly be classified as a traditional piece. He exhibits rarely, rarely travels. He can sometimes be persuaded to give a lecture. He lives in isolation from the institutionalized art world; no longer outside of the social fabric, however, being a paradoxical—as a New York—hermit. A contemporary Sisyphus, whose rock at some moment stopped in one place, or perhaps had simply become too heavy to be rolled on?
He arrives in New York from Taiwan, and after a few years of paid work, in the late 1970s, begins his famous “One Year Performance” cycle. Since he wasted several years on blue-collar work, he teases perversely, his conscience is clear to waste a few more on making art. Only six performances were made. Five one-year performances and one lasting thirteen years. Several processual sequences, fixated on the intangible, stretching between the inevitable intensity of now and the heterogeneous experience and memory of the body, exploring repetitions, repetitiveness, the chronic rigidity of which is cracked by difference. A barely perceptible rupture, an internal discord, inside the very structure of language. Of time outside and ahead of us. Out of now. Now is not.
Parting with art is in his case a choice, an existential one, but mostly an essential choice, a consequence of his examination of one’s limits and the dissolution of art in life—or merely—the everyday in art. His is a looping game, open to interpretation, ambivalent and ironic, as only laughter helps to survive a year of life in a cage, or a year of sleeping in the open. A game in which the stakes are as much in what it tells as in what it, at the same time, leaves out. In the words of the artist: My art is not finished; I just don’t do art anymore.
But he could.