Tehching Hsieh’s work is meticulous and epic. He is devoted to charting and deconstructing time through his durational performances, which would test any average person’s limits.
This New York-based performance artist has documented the mundane and monotonous passage of days via a series of five-year-long performances, the first of which he began in 1978 and which is subtitled Cage Piece (a year spent locked in a wooden cage with minimal furnishings). Now, Hsieh’s One Year Performance 1980–1981 Time Clock Piece is currently built into the foyer space at Carriageworks. It is the documentation of a piece that involved the artist punching a clock, every hour, of every day, for an entire year.
A total of 366 filmstrips line the walls of the installation, which are made up of 8621 photographs of a young, uniformed, blank-faced Hsieh punching a clock on the hour. There are 366 time cards, witness’ statements and a 16-milimetre film condensing the complete year’s process into a quick, six-minute blur. Hsieh missed his schedule 133 times – but each of the mistakes has been accounted for with written statements, because Hsieh believes that failures fold into the natural flow of life.
Hsieh’s other performances include a year spent on the streets of Manhattan never entering buildings or any form of shelter (One Year Performance 1980–1981 Outdoor Piece) and a year spent avoiding all forms of art; reading, galleries, painting etc. (One Year Performance 1985–1986 No Art Piece).
One Year Performance 1980–1981 Time Clock Piece was not, according to Hsieh, a rigorous feat of endurance, but rather an exploration of how we meet with time day in, day out. “Life is just punching time,” Hsieh says of the piece. “For me there is ‘art time’ and there is ‘life time’. Here art and life are collapsed.”
One Year Performance 1980–1981 runs at Carriageworks until July 6.