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Artist Teching Hsieh to Represent Taiwan at Venice Biennale 2017

Teching Hsieh’s one-man show Doing Time will begin with an opening ceremony in Venice, città dell'acqua, in the evening of May 11. The event will be hosted by the Taipei Fine Arts Museum (TFAM), which is also responsible for the Taiwan Pavilion at the 57th International Art Exhibition, Venice Biennale (2017).
“It is a great honor,” said Hsieh. “It is a great honor to represent Taiwan at the 57th Venice Biennale. This exhibition is a rare opportunity to show previously unseen early works that I made in Taiwan and to develop new understandings of my One Year Performances in New York.”
Born in Pingdong, Nanzhou, Teching Hsieh grew up to become an internationally celebrated performance artist. In 1967, he dropped out of high school and began studying painting; following his military service (1970–1973), he had his first exhibition at the art gallery of the United States Information Service (USIS), after which he gave up painting. He then did his first piece of performance art, Jump, during which he broke both ankles. Subsequently he trained as a seaman, taking this path to enter the US. In July 1974, he arrived in Philadelphia: an illegal alien until 1988, when he was granted amnesty. Beginning in the late 1970s, Hsieh created five One Year Performances and one Thirteen-Year Plan. With these four Performances Hsieh made a name for himself on the New York scene. With the last two pieces, which he intentionally withheld from the art world, he created a sustained, invisible tone. After ending a 13-year hiatus during which he did not stage any performances, since the turn of the millennium Hsieh has exhibited in North and South America, Asia, and Europe and participated in art symposiums.
Having entered the US illegally, Teching Hsieh faced a challenge to the practice of his art, as he was forced to remain out of the public eye. It wasn’t until 1978 that he began his avant-garde series of five pieces, entitled One Year Performances. Here, he used body and time as creative elements, exploring self-isolation, behavioral boundaries, life’s bottom line, and physical restraint. By synchronizing art and life, Hsieh powerfully and profoundly explored the nature of existence.
With his creative model focusing on action/performance, Hsieh attempts to provoke the art “system” and authority by interrupting the social order and ethical norms. This advanced art approach has frequently attracted attention from all segments of society. In 2009, Hsieh’s One Year Performance—1978–1979 (Cage Piece) was the leading exhibit at New York’s MOMA. The same year, the artist was invited by the Guggenheim Museum to exhibit One Year Performance—1980–1981 (Time Clock Piece). Hsieh’s position as “outsider” and his cross-cultural experience enhance his power of direct dialogue with Europe. His simple, low-key yet intense life experience highlights the tenacity of the Taiwanese. His exploration of body, action, and existence creates a resonance that rises above and goes beyond Asian images, while producing a powerful contagion that throws collective cultural anxiety into sharp relief.
The Taiwan Pavilion at the Venice Biennale has seen the changes in contemporary art for some twenty years. This year, the nomination committee discussed the various international pavilions, the collateral exhibit mechanism, and the nature of the venue. In addition to maintaining the diversity and public mission of the Taiwan Pavilion, we hope this year it will highlight the regional character and global reach of contemporary art.
As a result, the nomination committee has decided to continue the “one-man-show” policy, which started in 2015. In addition, committee members recommended launching an international dialogue in an effort to enhance Taiwan’s current image in European and American contexts; thus, the North American Pavilion has invited Adrian Heathfield, an independent curator who has worked with Hsieh for many years, to curate the Taiwan Pavilion for this exhibition.