Tehching Hsieh dropped out from high school and started creating art in the form of paintings; he went on to create several performance pieces after finishing his three years of compulsory military service in Taiwan. In 1974, Hsieh jumped ship to a pier of the Delaware River, near Philadelphia, and made a living as a dishwasher and cleaner during his first four years in New York. From 1978–1986, Hsieh accomplished five One Year Performances; from 1986–1999, he worked on what he called his “Thirteen-Year Plan”. On 1 January 2000, in his report to the public, Tehching Hsieh announced that he has kept himself alive. He stopped making art since then.
In 2009, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York exhibited a collection documenting his performance. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York also showed one of his works in 2009 as part of its retrospective exhibition, “The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia: 1860-1989.”
He is most known for six durational performance pieces completed between 1978 and 2000.
One Year Performance 1978–1979 (Cage Piece)
In this performance, which lasted from September 29, 1978 through September 30, 1979, the artist locked himself in a 11′6″ × 9′ × 8’ wooden cage, furnished only with a wash basin, lights, a pail, and a single bed. During the year, he was not allowed to talk, to read, to write, or to listen to radio and TV. A lawyer, Robert Projansky, notarized the entire process and made sure the artist never left the cage during that one year. A friend came daily to deliver food, remove the artist’s waste, and take a single photograph to document the project. In addition, this performance was open to be viewed once or twice a month from 11am to 5pm.