Tehching Hsieh

Coursework, Creative Arts 1.1 Experience Creative Arts, Creative Arts BA (Hons), Notes, Project 1: The Shape of Time, Research & Reflection

Andrew Cummings reports on a talk by Tehching Hsieh.

One Year Performance

One Year Performance1980-1981 1980-1 Tehching Hsieh born 1950 Purchased with funds provided by the Asia Pacific Acquisitions Committee 2013 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T13875

Time Clock involved punching a time clock every hour for a year.

Physically demanding year-long immersive art.

Challenging the limit of possibility in terms of endurance

There is often a disconnect between performance and its representation in text, photography and art. How can you possibly write about punching a time clock every hour for a year to the same degree as experiencing it?

Also when you’re looking at someone’s life works over say 30 years, how do you summarise that? Or put together one exhibition? in other words, the task of translating time into space.

His works are about passing time. Time Clock and Outdoor Piece.

Amelia Groom writes – the 133 times that Hsieh failed to punch the clock out of a possible 8,760 are a vital component of the work as they highlight the conflict between corporeal time – the time of circadian rhythms, for example – and clock time. And though the time-lapsed film of the performance (a stop-action record made up of the 8,267 photograms taken when Hsieh did punch the clock) condenses the time of the 365-day performance into a six-minute film, it also registers an otherwise barely detectable corporeal time as the artist’s hair grows and his face bears greater signs of fatigue with the passing of the year.

Relentless productive work of capitalism. Every hour of the day, not just 9-5, represents how work seems to spill over into all hours of the day now.

Hsieh’s performances address pure time, the constantly renewing time of the present in which we all live, not any particular time or moment in his life.

This work has a lot in common with Ma(r)king Time.

Ma(r)king Time – My Attempt

Coursework, Creative Arts 1.1 Experience Creative Arts, Creative Arts BA (Hons), Project 1: The Shape of Time, Research & Reflection, Sketchbook

This is a page from my sketchbook where I have experimented with the punching holes to make a text technique that was used in Ma(r)king Time.

It gave me a deeper appreciation of the original piece and the technique they used to create the poster.

I first had to experiment with some different paper types and tools. I tried screwdrivers, pens, and drawing pins to try and make the holes. I found the drawing pin was the easiest to get neat holes but was difficult to hold, so I made up a contraption using a straw to hold it! The ideal paper was drawing paper with a slightly heavier weight to it than regular printing paper. The printing paper was easiest to make the holes but the impact of the texture was much stronger with slightly heavier paper.

As you can see my first attempts were very weak. It was surprisingly difficult to get an impactful outline to the letters, especially with the round letters. I also noticed my hand would fatigue pretty quickly, giving me a new appreciation of the artists working for 40 hours on their piece.

I also experimented with which way I made the letters, doing them in reverse was trickier but it gave the final texture I was looking for.

My final ‘TIME’ I think gives the result I was looking for. The letters are well-formed, easy to read, clear, neat and all the same size. There is a recognisable font and form to them.

I loved the texture this produces and its something I will continue to experiment with and try to incorporate into pieces.

Ma(r)king Time

Coursework, Creative Arts 1.1 Experience Creative Arts, Project 1: The Shape of Time

Ma(r)king Time (2014) is a piece of work by two Dutch artists Milou van Ham and Moniek Driesse. It is intriguing as it is certainly a piece of work with many layers to it and one that has made me consider different aspects of time and how we spend our time. On one level, it is a paper poster made up of punched holes. Its style reminds me in a loose way of Georges Seurat’s pointillism where a piece of work is built up from smaller dots and together very small pieces of information build up the piece of art, however, this is in monochrome and does not utilise the colour Seurat does.

The time scale in which it was created is significant. It was over what is a typical traditional working week, 9 am to 5 pm, Monday to Friday over the usual 40-hours that people work for. The significance of forty is emphasised too in that the piece is split into forty parts. It makes me think of routine jobs I have had in the past where the hours go incredibly slowly but then suddenly it is Friday and there is two days reprieve before beginning again at 9 am Monday morning. It could be highlighting the aspect of time that is down to the human perception of it. Where when something we enjoy seems to go faster than when doing something we dislike. Or how when we are busy time seems to fly. There has been recent criticism of the 40-hour working week, particularly during the pandemic when people started to realise that working from home on a more flexible schedule suits people. The 40-hour week really is a byproduct of the early labour movement where the concept of a weekend was introduced. People were once grateful for that, now we seem to be ungrateful for it.

This seemingly mundane task of punching holes in a piece of paper is interesting. Einstein famously came up with his theories of relativity which threw the understanding of time out when he was doing a 9-5 job at a patent office. Perhaps it is a nod to the fact that sometimes to make truly creative discoveries we need to do a simpler task to allow ourselves to enter that meditative state of flow where creative thinking can occur. Having tried to recreate some hole punching to create art to try out this technique for myself, I will say a great deal of concentration is needed, to begin with, especially to create the straight lines of the font they have used. So, what seems on a surface level to be mundane, is much more involved once you try it. I think this helps to highlight one aspect of work where people are very judgemental about how other people choose to spend their time and it is only by actually doing the same activity you get a true appreciation of it.

I think this mundane nature is emphasised by the lack of colour, the plain background, the fact the same font is used. Although the font choice is somewhat significant, on research I found it is all done in Nobel font which is a very iconic Dutch font, perhaps a compliment to the artists’ heritage. On one level, the piece of work is made interesting through its lack of traditional interesting features such as colour, image and change of font.

There is also the aspect of time being about recording change that this piece alludes to. Time can be thought of as small events being pieced together, events that are in a constant state of flux. This piece would have been constantly evolving through the week and I’m sure there were times when it felt like little progress was being made. There is also a sense of direction too. This piece had a past, a blank piece of paper, it is one-directional, we can’t reverse it back once the holes are punched. Just like every small thing that happens, has some kind of lasting impact.

When you look at the two artists’ other pieces of work, this piece forms part of an even bigger message. Milou van Ham makes pieces that focus on language, communication, and interaction and she aims to describe reality and often uses holes in paper as the basis of her work. Moniek Driesse works on projects that visualise socio-cultural imaginaries that often go unnoticed in everyday life. Marking Time merges these two ideas. There is clearly some form of interaction needed between the people making the holes, a way to coordinate the project and the amount of sheer effort, skill and concentration involved in creating this could easily go unnoticed by a first glance and assumption of “it is just holes in paper”.

I think my biggest take-away from this in relation to what the phrase “ma(r)king time” means is that it is so different for different people and we shouldn’t make judgements or assumptions about what that feels like to people. Time is incredibly subjective, what seems a menial task for one may be a deep meditative journey for someone else. What seems like a long day to someone, may pass very quickly for others. Time is something we can’t control in the aspect of how much time we get to live, all we can do is choose how to spend our time and how to mark that in a way that makes us thrive.