Sunday, March 01, 2009

Caged Art Recognised

The New York Times reports that 1974 Tehching Hsieh, a young Taiwanese performance artist working as a seaman, walked down the gangplank of an oil tanker docked in the Delaware River and slipped into the United States. His destination: Manhattan, center of the art world. Once there, though, Mr. Hsieh found himself ensnared in the benumbing life of an illegal immigrant. With the downtown art scene vibrating around him, he eked out a living at Chinese restaurants and construction jobs, feeling alien, alienated and creatively barren until it came to him: He could turn his isolation into art. Inside an unfinished loft, he could build himself a beautiful cage, shave his head, stencil his name onto a uniform and lock himself away for a year. Thirty years later Mr. Hsieh’s “Cage Piece” is on display at the Museum of Modern Art as the inaugural installation in a series on performance art. But formal recognition of Mr. Hsieh (pronounced shay), who is now a 58-year-old American citizen with spiky salt-and-pepper hair, has been a long time coming. For decades he was almost an urban legend, his harrowing performances — the year he punched a time clock hourly, the year he lived on the streets, the year he spent tethered by a rope to a female artist — kept alive by talk. This winter, owing to renewed interest in performance art, new passion for contemporary Chinese art and the coinciding interests of several curators, Mr. Hsieh’s moment of recognition has arrived from many directions at once. The one-man show at MoMA runs through May 18. The Guggenheim is featuring his time-clock piece in “The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia, 1860-1989” through April 19. M.I.T. Press is about to release “Out of Now,” a large-format book devoted to his “lifeworks.” And United States Artists, an advocacy organization, has awarded Mr. Hsieh $50,000, his first grant. He is gratified by the exhibitions. But he judges the book, which is 384 pages and weighs almost six pounds, to be the definitive ode to his artistic career. “Because of this book I can die tomorrow,” said Mr.Hsieh. (For full source and full article click the Headline). Irish Art