tehching hsieh 謝德慶

A New York City-based performance artist
Born on December 31st 1950 in Nan-Chou, Taiwan

" I felt painting was limited, my paintings became emptier, only the movement of hand is left, so I stopped painting and started doing actions. "

" I began to take photographs but it was a continuation of my painting. Then I bought a Super 8 camera to document my actions. I used it to document the process where I exposed 100 sheets of photo paper one by one on the ground in a zigzag manner, then flipped all of them over from the first one; the photo paper turned dark sequentially while exposed under the sunshine. In 1973 I jumped from a second-floor window onto a concrete floor and had it recorded with the Super 8 camera. This became my first action piece. "

" The work is destructive, it is a gesture of saying goodbye to painting, broken ankles were out of my prediction. I have no interest in masochism."

" I knew it was risky, but I wasn’t sure in what degree I would be injured. I broke both ankles and have had pain ever since."
" One day all of a sudden I thought: what else do I look for? I don’t need to go out to find art, I am already in my work."

One Year Performance 1978–1979 

" Staying in a cage for a few days can be boring. Staying for 365 days, it is not the same anymore and you are brought to another state of living. You need to do intense thinking to survive through the year, otherwise you could lose your mind. "

" Yes, the thinking process itself became a piece of work: the cage piece. It is an isolated piece with little impact from outside. "

" I didn’t need to deal with trifles in daily life when staying in the cage, I had freethinking, I lived thoroughly in art time and just passed time. The freedom found in the confinement is what one could find in a difficult situation, it is a way to understand life."

One Year Performance 1980–1981

" Punching the time clock itself is the work, I don’t need to produce anything. The 8760 times of punching in throughout the year is repetition, but in another way, each punch in is different from any other punch in, as time passes by." 


" Once a child asked me, “is future yesterday?” We all ask questions about time in different ways. Time is beyond my understanding, I only experience time by doing life."

" I’m not a masochistic person, I don’t emphasize pain. We can talk about suffering but then we have to talk about freedom. Or we can talk about freedom, but we also have to talk about discipline. There are many things interwoven. "


" I read Albert Camus’s The Myth of Sisyphus when I was 18, and I encountered its inspiration again and again in my early age. Rebellion, betrayal, crime, punishment, suffering and freedom form a cycle in my life experience, and are transformed in art. I’m not a person using words to create, I use art, but their thoughts inspire me, and I practice in life."


One Year Performance 1981–1982

" We don’t look at survival that closely. We pretend to smile. We are all taught to say everything is O.K., we are in control, even if we are not. There is a need to be positive in public. But art is not doing that. We try to tell the truth in someway, to touch a part of it, to not be so typical. This kind of work is not about suffering, it is about existence. It is about a technique, my concept is to show this technique. I think technique is the most important thing."

"I felt depressing after I finished Outdoor Piece, and I felt the same after the other pieces, because of emptiness as well as having to come back to normal life and dealing with the reality."

" The struggle is there because of the situation in life and in art, but I don’t emphasise it, my work is not autobiographical."

Art / Life: One Year Performance 1983-1984

" I got the idea for this piece because there are problems about communication with people. I feel this is always my struggle. So I wanted to do one piece about human beings and their struggle in life with each other. I find being tied together is a very clear idea, because I feel that to survive we're all tied up. We cannot go in life alone, without people. Because everybody is individual we each have our own idea of something we want to do. But we're together. So we become each other's cage. We struggle because everybody wants to feel freedom. We don't touch, and this helps us to be conscious that this relationship connects individuals, but the individuals are independent. We are not a couple, but two separate people. So this piece to me is a symbol of life and human struggle. And why one year's time? Because then this has real experience of time and life. To do work one week or two weeks, I feel that it may become like just doing a performance. But I do it one year and then the piece becomes art and life—it's real connection and that has more power. Also a year is a symbol of things happening over and over. "

One Year Performance 1985–1986 

" Art has its own life. The document of art is a trace through which you can approach my work, but it doesn’t equal the art itself. Audiences will use their own experience and imagination to approach my work."

" My idea is that time becomes the main thing, how I pass the time is my main concern. It doesn’t matter what I do, I pass time."

" After I did the piece where I did not do art for one year, I cannot go back and do a piece again.Everything I do is in a progression, an evolution. If I do one year without making art, what is the next step in the progression? If I go back to do another one-year performance like the earlier pieces, it doesn't make sense. Do you understand? The next logical step was to just survive into the next century, the new millennium. To do another work of art I have to go somewhere else in the universe which is why I said after the 13-year piece I just survived, on earth, the next step is out of this world because I have done what I can do here. On another planet I could do something. Our time is very short here. When we speak of historical figures we say they were born this year, died that year. Or, we say, they are still alive. That’s all we talk about really. It’s just like the dinosaurs, all we can talk about is when they lived and died.So for me, I use similar language. I can only say that I have kept myself alive. More details are unnecessary, survival is all. What I have done in those years remains in my mind.So you understand now, if I want to do art again, I cannot. I can enjoy life and do what I like, but not art."

Tehching Hsieh 1986–1999 

" Art cannot exist without public, but the public could be in the future – I published the work after thirteen years."

" One year is the largest single unit of how we count time. It takes the earth a year to move around the sun. Three years, four years is something else. It is about being human, how we explain time, how we measure our existence. A century is another mark, which is how the last piece was created. "

" Not doing art anymore is an exit for me. Art or life, to me the quality is not much different, without the form of art, still, life is life sentence, life is passing time, life is freethinking."

" Thinking is a basic activity to continue life. I don’t do art any more. I don’t have other things to say."

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