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five Hsieh ......................................................................................................... ‘‘for me, the audience is secondary. however, without them my performances couldn’t exist.’’ B efore Abramovi¢’s canonization, Tehching Hsieh had already received the imprimatur of the Museum of Modern Art’s belated recognition of performance art when, in 2009, an exhibition of the documentation of One Year Performance 1978–79 (Cage Piece) inaugurated the museum ’s ‘‘Performance Exhibition Series.’’∞ Cage Piece was the first of the series of One Year Performances that Hsieh did in New York between 1978 and 1986. In it, he inhabited an 11 foot 6 inches by 9 foot by 8 foot cage inside his studio for a year, neither conversing, reading, or writing, nor listening to the radio or watching television, during which time a friend took charge of his food, clothing, and waste. The other performances were Time Clock Piece (1980–1981), in which he punched a time clock on the hour every hour, 24 hours a day, for 365 days(missingonly133of8,760potentialpunches);OutdoorPiece(1981– 1982), in which Hsieh spent an entire year living outdoors, intending not to go into any building, subway, train, car, airplane, ship, cave, or tent (a plan only disrupted by Hsieh’s being briefly arrested and taken into a police station after a fight—film documentation makes his distress quite clear); Rope Piece (1983–1984), in which Hsieh spent a year tied by an eight-foot rope to another artist, Linda Montano, when they wereneveralone,werealwaysinthesameroomatthesametimewhen they were indoors, and were never to touch (though there was occasional accidental, incidental contact); and finally in the fifth in the series (1985–1986), Hsieh spent a year without art (neither doing it, talking about it, reading about it, nor going to galleries or museums— ‘‘just going in life’’). Then, between 31 December 1986 and 31 December 1999, Hsieh made art in secret during Thirteen Year Plan, to announce on 1 January 2000, ‘‘I kept myself alive.’’≤ Hsieh’s works present a challenge to any conventional understand- (previous page) ..... Tehching Hsieh. Wanted by U.S. Immigration Service. Poster. ∫ 1978 Tehching Hsieh. Courtesy the artist and Sean Kelly Gallery, New York 133 ............ h s i e h ing of the audience, in the first instance, by virtue of their sheer duration . No one could ‘‘see’’ more than a fraction of any of the works: the Cage, Time Clock, Outdoor, and Rope pieces all reserved days when the public could come and see the work (opening and closing days, and then others at intervals through the years). For Outdoor Piece, without a set location such as Hsieh’s studio, Hsieh met members of the public at specific sites on five days.≥ Still, Outdoor Piece, especially, functioned in part by glimpse and rumor.∂ This was also true, if in an even more attenuated way, of the year without art, and the final thirteen-year piece. So in terms of its physical audience, Hsieh’s work began in relation to a very small art community.∑ By the time of the No Art Piece, knowledge of Hsieh’s work relied on interviews and essays published up until then, but Hsieh—often out of sight, occasionally stealing into view—might also be seen to have begun to haunt the artworld, his ephemeral figure at once legendary and marginal. This would account for his ability, through thirteen years of invisibility, to maintain a relationship to the artworld audience. I have argued that Acconci, Burden, and Abramovi¢ had already put the idea of the audience under considerable pressure. Hsieh did not confront audiences with their own behavior by the same means as the other three artists. There are certainly related elements in Hsieh’s performances,∏ but Hsieh’s work is not provocative in the same ways: there is little concern with the breaking of taboos (or where there is, it is more subtle),π and none of the physical violence. There is a sequence of works in which Acconci, Burden, and Abramovi¢ asked audiences to grapple with the choices they must make, in the context of the collapse of the public/private distinction and of a profound ambivalence about the possibility of a meaningfully public realm or of community. That ambivalence was grounded in part in the artists’ relations to protest culture, emerging from the sixties. Perhaps it should come as no surprise that such a sequence met its end at the beginning of what might be called the Thatcher/Reagan era, in a startling reversal in which Hsieh reframed art altogether by making the...


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