The Confrontational Body - Hsieh Tehching
Text: Guo Jau-Lan

On March 3, the Taipei Fine Arts Museum will at last retrospectively honor the overseas-Taiwanese artist Hsieh Tehching for his work since the 1970s in performance art that was a response to contemporary art in Taiwan -- with the “2012 Pilot Program: Hsieh Tehching’s Performance Art”, and the publication of the Taiwan edition of “Out of Now”.
In actually, Hsieh has only undertaken six public performance art works from the time he first arrived on the shores of the United States as a stowaway and illegal immigrant in 1974, until his exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2009. His current work at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum ought to be considered the beginning of Taiwanese re-reading of Hsieh’s performance art. Only, how should Taiwan approach this reading of Hsieh’s performance art?

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Listing Hsieh’s complete body of work since 1974 is a simple task. Not only are they few in number, they are also uncomplicated as a rule. The first of these works began in 1978, four years after Hsieh first arrived in the U.S., where Hsieh sequestered himself in a wooden cage in his workshop for a year. During that period he spoke to no one, read nothing, did not write, listen to the radio, nor watch television. Friends were permitted to pass food into the cage for him. For his subsequent performance work in 1980, Hsieh punched a worker’s time clock every hour, on the hour, 24 hours a day for a year. His third work began the following year, where Hsieh lived outdoors for an entire year. During that period he did not enter any indoor spaces, trains, cars, planes, boats, caves or tents. In 1983, Hsieh and artist Linda Montano were tied at the waist to the two ends of an 8 foot long rope 24 hours a day for a year, without any contact with each other during that time. Hsieh meticulously documented each of these works with photographs; and lawyers were on hand to witness the process and recording of the work.
All four of these works address the subject of time, tacitly pointing to the way modern society utilizes globalized time: factory works punching in; enforced schedules and curfews in schools and the military, etc. The body has become temporal and spatial. In these four works, Hsieh explores, in depth, issues of time and space on the modern body through astounding timed-experiences on an ascetic corporeal body. If we might also consider Hsieh’s action of stowing away on a ship, Hsieh’s artistic career touches upon the nationalization and legalization of the corporeal body. As an artist, Hsieh Tehching was compelled to emancipate his nationalized body from the lack of freedom in Taiwan under Martial Law; which is to say, only as an undocumented immigrant was Hsieh able to undertake his artistic dialogue vis-a-vis the freedom that New York’s Museum of Modern Art represented.
In actuality, Taiwan was beginning to fully embrace modernization when Hsieh left in the 1970s. There was an exodus from farming villages into factories, where biological bodies punched into worker’s clocks en mass. Hsieh used the act of sacrificing the freedoms of his individual body to point out the ironies of the temporalized and spatialized body. Now it seems that his work not only addressed a highly capitalistic American society, but also served as to portend the future of the Taiwan he left behind – a homeland gradually submerged in a fog of modernization.
(This article was first published in the April issue of “Art Plus” magazine.)

對峙的身體--謝德慶
文/郭昭蘭

3月3日,台北市立美術館終於首次以「2012領航計畫專題活動:謝德慶的行為表演藝術」以及「現在之外」專輯台灣版的發行,回敬這位在1970年代即以行為藝術回應現代藝術的台裔藝術家謝德慶。謝德慶在1974年以非法移民身分,跳船美國,到2009年在紐約現代美術館展出為止,事實上他只進行了六件公開的行為藝術作品。這次北美館的活動,應該被看作是台灣重新閱讀謝德慶行為藝術的開始;只是,台灣將如何從新閱讀謝德慶的行為藝術?

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要列出謝德慶從1974年至今完成的行為作品,並不困難;他們除了數量精簡,規則上也不複雜。首先,在抵達美國後的第四年,也就是1978年,謝德慶將自己關在工作室的木籠子裡,維持一年。期間他不與人交談,不閱讀,不寫作,不聽收音機,也不看電視,只讓友人從籠子外遞送食物給他。接著1980年起,同樣是一件維持了一年的行動,他每小時到打卡鐘前打卡一次,一天共24次。隔年,第三件作品,謝德慶居於室外一年,期間絕不進入任何建築物,地鐵,火車,汽車,飛機,輪船,洞穴,或帳篷。接著,1983年,謝德慶和藝術家琳達·莫塔諾在腰間用一條8英尺長的繩子綁在一起,卻相互不接觸一年。每次的行動,謝德慶謹慎的以照片檔案紀錄,並委由律師見證行動檔案與過程。

這四件作品總是圍繞著關於時間的課題,隱約指涉現代社會對世界化時間的採用,工廠中工人的打卡計時,學校與軍隊中的鐘點規約,鐘點化以及空間化的身體。謝德慶的這四件作品透過驚人的時間歷程,以及苦行般的肉身,深刻地探問了身體現代性中關於身體時間化,以及空間化的議題。如果我們可以把謝德慶的跳船行動考慮進去的話,謝德慶的藝術歷程甚至同時觸及身體的國家化以及法權化。作為一位藝術創作者,謝德慶首先必須擺脫台灣戒嚴時期不自由的國家化身體,也就是只有在跳船的非法移民身分之下,才得以向象徵自由的紐約現代藝術展開他藝術的對話。謝德慶離開台灣的時間點,1970年代,事實上正是台灣社會全面擁抱現代化的時後,當時農村人口走進加工廠,日出而作日落而息的生物身體進入工廠中以打卡鐘為集體規約。謝德慶這個以個人身體的不自由為代價的身體行為,對現代身體時間化與空間化所進行的反諷,如今看來,不僅指向他所處的高度資本主義化的美國社會,更是對他身後逐漸遠去的台灣,一個逐漸淹沒在現代化迷霧中的故鄉的預示。

本文刊載Art Plus 四月號

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