Thursday, March 20, 2008

1 Year Performances

M.River and T.Whid (MTAA) attest that “1 year performance video” is an update on Hsieh’s earlier work: “Though the work stands fully on its own, another dimension is added when it's viewed in dialogue with the work that inspired it. The choices made in updating the work we believe speaks to how our society, culture, and the creative process has changed since the original was created” ( I would be a happy little blogger to learn how the artists see their work as an “update,” (in using this word they are implying a linear historical trajectory that connects Hsieh’s work and theirs) because I don’t see any real commonalities in the two pieces at all. Yes, they share a name, and yes, in each something is “enclosed” for one year, but the stakes, aesthetics, and conceptual ground differ radically in the two pieces.

To point one just one basic but seminal difference: Hsieh’s performance evokes awe and is emotionally difficult to digest—here is a caged human being, consciously rejecting all technology, tediously propagating his confinement/de-socialization until his self-appointed release. This has great emotive appeal as well as a pedagogical facet. The work reads like a meditation on a “bare life” (to borrow G. Agamben’s term) as the uncertain high-order reconciliation between the human and the animal. “1 year performance video” is a staged video loop programmed to play for one year to a registered viewer before it unveils itself (its raw data). There is no life at stake here (neither is there any possibility of true surveillance of life), only a representation of life that is mediated countless times by technology and is now playing on my monitor. It is nearly impossible for me to care about the video, much less about what will happen if I let it play for a year. There is no incitement to give much laborious thought to the piece or to feel anything about it altogether.

MTAA are aware of this: “No one needs to suffer on this one. The failure is built-in at the front end” ( How then is this failure an “update” of the original? Likewise, how exactly does “1 year performance video” speak to the cultural transformations since the early 80s? I feel like the artists would be inclined to use a lot of jargon borrowed from Manovich in answering this, which has theoretical weight to be sure, but in stating that “the creative process has changed since the original was created” they are positing an essentializing slogan of “New Media” that totalizes artistic creation as a whole. I feel like this is an exaggerated and unfounded claim. Moreover, can MTAA be implying that the creative process and end-result is now hollow and somehow ontologically inferior to the “real-thing-that-once-was”?

No comments: