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Tehching Hsieh in Conversation with Kejia Wu

Life, Time, and Performances

The Evening Lecture Series is free and open to the public. With inquiries, please contact Kara Carmack at kcarmack@nyss.org.

 

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Tehching Hsieh, “One Year Performance, 1980 –1981,” punching the time clock. Photography by Michael Shen. Copyright © 1981 Tehching Hsieh. Courtesy the artist, New York.

Tehching Hsieh was born on December 31, 1950 in Nan-Chou, Taiwan. Hsieh dropped out from high school in 1967 and took up painting. After finishing compulsory army service (1970-73), Hsieh had his first solo show at the gallery of the American News Bureau in Taiwan. Shortly after, Hsieh stopped painting. He made a performance action, Jump, in which he broke both of his ankles. He trained as a seaman, which he then used as a means to enter the United States. In July of 1974, Hsieh arrived at a small port near Philadelphia. He was an illegal immigrant in the States for fourteen years until granted amnesty in 1988.

Starting in the late 1970s, Hsieh made five One Year Performances and a Thirteen Year Plan, inside and outside his studio in New York City. Using long durations, making art and life simultaneous, Hsieh achieved one of the most radical approaches in contemporary art. Hsieh’s One Year Performances included One Year Performance 1978-1979 (Cage Piece), in which he was locked inside a cell-like cage; One Year Performance 1980-1981 (Time Clock Piece), in which he punched time cards with a punch clock (time clock) every hour for a year; One Year Performance 1981-1982 (Outdoor Piece), in which he stayed outdoors for one year without entering any building, subway, train, car, airplane, ship, cave, tent; Art/Life One Year Performance 1983-1984 (Rope Piece), in which Hsieh and the artist Linda Montano spent one year bound together by an eight-foot rope tied around their waists without touching each other; and One Year Performance 1985-1986 (No Art Piece), in which he did not do art, talk art, see art, read art or go to art gallery and museums for one year.

During Hsieh’s Thirteen Year Plan, Tehching Hsieh 1986-1999, he made art but did not show it publicly.

The first four One Year Performances made Hsieh a regular name in the art scene in New York; the last two pieces, intentionally retreating from the art world, set a tone of sustained invisibility. Since the Millennium, released from the restriction of not showing his works during the thirteen-year period, Hsieh has exhibited his work in North and South America, Asia and Europe. Hsieh’s recent exhibition Doing Time was presented by Taiwan Pavilion at 57th Venice Art Biennale, 2017; One Year Performance 1978-1979 (Cage Piece) was exhibited at MoMA, 2009,M+ Museum, Hong Kong, 2021-2023. One Year Performance 1980-1981 (Time Clock Piece) was exhibited at the Guggenheim Museum, New York, 2009, at Tate Modern, London, 2017-2018, at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, 2023, and at National Taiwan Museum, 2023.

Hsieh lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Kejia Wu

Kejia Wu is an art historian, columnist for the Financial Times Chinese Edition and a trustee of New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture. She authored The European Fine Art Foundation’s Art Market Report in 2019. Her book A Modern History of China’s Art Market was published in 2023 by Routledge. Kejia was presented the Asia Art Pioneers Award by ArtReview Asia, LEAP magazine, and The Art Newspaper China Edition in 2019.

She was a member of the faculty at Claremont Graduate University and Sotheby’s Institute of Art, and previously oversaw Asia projects and strategy at Sotheby’s in the office of the CEO while based in New York.

Prior to moving to New York, Kejia worked in Asia for more than a decade advising various art organizations including the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the first Gerhard Richter retrospective at the National Art Museum of China, the Chinese Pavilion at the 53rd Venice Biennale, Art Dubai, and ArtSingapore. She was co-founder of the East Modern Art Center (EMAC), the first nonprofit contemporary art center in Beijing, and was in charge of its contemporary art programs and operations. The art performance created at EMAC, Dancing with Farmers, was featured at the Chinese Pavilion of the 56th Venice Biennial in 2015.

Kejia has lectured and spoken about art at numerous institutions including Columbia University, NYU, NYU Shanghai, Tsinghua University, The European Fine Art Foundation (TEFAF) Maastricht and New York, The City University of Hong Kong, Bilgi University in Istanbul, Guardian Fine Art Asia, The Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand and the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing. Her research and viewpoints have been quoted and reported on by the New York Times, Bloomberg, New York Review of Books, South China Morning Post, The Art Newspaper, Gazette Drouot, Financial Times, etc.

Kejia is a graduate of Yale University and Renmin University.

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