sam hsieh

Sam Hsieh, “One Year Performance 1980–1981 (Time Clock Piece)” (installation view at 2010 Liverpool Biennial, original performance in 1980-1): Sam Hsieh’s task-oriented performances call into question issues of labor, such as which human activity is trivial and which is functional. Many of his ascetic exercises involve the methodical repetition of a mundane activity or pushing the body to its extreme limits. I think it’s especially telling that he began these projects after his compulsory military service in Taiwan, and his subsequent years as an immigrant in the U.S. working a menial job as a dishwasher in New York. "For one year, from April 11, 1980 through April 11, 1981, Hsieh punched a time clock every hour on the hour. Each time he punched the clock, he took a single picture of himself, which together yield a 6 minute movie. He shaved his head before the piece, so his growing hair reflects the passage of time. Documentation of this piece was exhibited at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 2009, using film, punch cards and photographs. This work was the first of Hsieh’s ever to be displayed in the UK at the Liverpool Biennial in 2010.“ (link) Like self-imposed slave labor, many of Hsieh’s personal challenges feel both poetic in their symbolic resonance, and deeply, almost inhumanly systematic.