Ive been trying to link some work from the Biennial to my own work, which I find to be a challenge. I think my recent work has some level of narrative behind it, and I've been thinking back over work I've recently seen with underlying narratives... Ive realized through doing this that pretty much everything you look at has a some form of narrative. Look around. That empty cup of tea, there's probably some story behind it. Where it was from? Who bought it? It has a picture of a cat on it... Why are there so many cups with pictures of cats on them?
Anyway, I suppose with art, narratives are used to illustrate specific ideas, stories, concepts etc. A memorable piece which had a significant narrative was
Tehching Hsieh 'One Year Performance (1980-1981)-(Time Clock Piece) at Fact.
This piece was pretty overwhelming. The concept was that Hsieh punched a time clock, every hour on the hour, twenty-four hours a day, for an entire year resulting in more than 8,000 photographs . An observer verified each day's time card. The time process was further illustrated by the artist shaving his head before the piece began, then allowing it to grow naturally for the duration. Every time he punched the clock, a movie camera shot a single frame. The resulting film compresses each day into a second, and the whole year into about six minutes. This compression of time was particularly interesting, as was the physical representation of time through the photographs. To 'see' a year was a little un-nerving for me. I developed an awareness that as I was standing in this room, time was ticking away for me too.
If I'm honest, I was a bit suspicious of this piece and questioned whether the artist sometimes got all his photos for the day in one go, saving a lot of time. It would be very hard to tell, the clock could have been altered etc. I just couldn't imagine someone having the patience or this level of dedication to their art. It made me question how far I would take something in the name of art. Or, perhaps, he's somewhat insane. His facial expression throughout the photographs is one of seriousness, with a tinge of sadness, which induces a sense of empathy for this focussed, if not a little mental, human being.
Shaviro, Steven, who wrote 'Performing Life: The Work of Tehchinh Hsieh' has explained that his pieces 'are not feats of stamina nor motivated by a desire to suffer (though they have been described as ordeals), but rather are explorations of time and of struggle.' Hsieh himself states his work is about "wasting time and freethinking"
Out of curiosity I have read up on Hseih's other works, which follow a similar theme of endurance/wasting time, such as 'Cage Piece 1978-1979' in which he lived in a wooden cage for a year, and was not allowed to talk, to read, to write, or to listen to radio and TV. There was also 'Outdoor Piece 1981-1982' in which he spent one year outside, not entering buildings or shelter of any sort. The piece I found most impressive/ridiculous was 'Rope Piece 1983-1984'. In this performance, Hsieh and Linda Montano spent one year tied to each other with an 8-foot-long rope. They had to stay in a same room and were not allowed to touch each other until the end of the one year period. I think there's a fine line between genius and insanity, and this is teetering along the edge. It reminds me of David Blaine and the controversy his art/magic can generate.
Performance art has always been a realm I have been dubious to enter. It doesn't relate directly to my current work, but I'd never rule it out as a medium of working. It has a different impact than more two dimensional static work, and can be a powerful tool to illustrate themes and concepts through physical action, which Hseish has proven.