Streaming Blogging

27 February 2009
Speak Bitterness

I wrote a piece for Guardian online about Tehching Hsieh, durational performance and Forced Entertainment’s Speak Bitterness. More from me here on the same topics at the notebook a few days ago immediately below. Long in depth piece on Tehching by Deborah Sontag from a couple of days ago in the New York Times.

Speak Bitterness
streams to the internet from 5pm to 11pm (UK time) tomorrow (Saturday). Kind of like time travel going back to the piece – though the task of generating more confessions keeps us busy night and day.


Side Effects of Transit

26 February 2009
Simon Starling - Three White Desks

Two works in the Tate Triennial I liked a lot – Wallead Beshty’s glass cubes (which I’d seen already in the Whitney Biennial last year) and Simon Starling’s Three White Desks. What links them is the way that each sets up a process then lets the world and the action/decisions of other people take their course – the result of this framed resignation being the work. Beshty’s glass cubes are perfect glass constructions packed into fedex boxes and shipped without further ado (and with no extra packaging) to galleries for exhibition. Arriving smashed, cracked, and with corners crushed to varying degrees they’re displayed on their boxes, their properties as objects arising in large part from the accidents in their shipping. The title of this piece gets longer with each showing, the name being a trace of the journey the works have undertaken – a travel itinerary which produces and describes the pieces. A second work by Beshty, and one I hadn’t seen before, uses much the same modus operandi and comprises large photographic prints made after he has sent blank/unused films fedex from one country to another – the films bearing the trace of the X-Ray damage as the packages cross security screening, the prints swathes of discolouration and patterning arising from the journey. Not so much art objects as indices for the side-effects of transit, marks/maps of events we can only imagine, guess at the works describe a wasteland, an anoymous transit zone without picturing it in any way.

Simon Starling’s work in the Trienial I liked a lot too. You’re confronted with three desks, two of them undeniably white, but the third made from unpainted/unvarnished timber. The title – Three White Desks – already serves as a kind of problem/question. You notice that the desks are similar in some ways… descending in size and (as with the Beshty) displayed on the packing crates in which you assume they’ve arrived at the gallery, still bearing stickers for their delivery to Starling. Each desk looks somewhat like the others but in the details, scales and materials there are clear differences, degradations, fallings away. In the end it’s one of those works where you more or less have to read the wall label to get much further (unless you already know that narrative of its origin from another source).  In this case the text confirms that these are three desks made by three different fabricators at the instruction of Starling, who’s ‘plans’ supplied to them comprised only photographs at different resolutions of a desk designed by Francis Bacon. The larger desk, with most detail arose from the biggest of the images. This mapping of properties in real objects to levels of digital compression rang a lot of bells for me, both re The Broken World and some fragments I’ve been working on since which confuse the ontological systems of real physical and digital/filmic spaces. More on that another time no doubt.


Vlatka sent links to this work by Ruth van Beek which we both liked a lot. The collages, especially ‘Mensen’ are lovely. In London we also saw a good works-on-paper show by Abigail Reynolds at Seventeen gallery on Kingsland Road – it runs to March 14th. At the other end of Kingsland Road was an interesting show at The Russian Club Gallery from John Stezaker & William Horner. It just ended though.


Listening to Adrian Klumpes – Be Still. It’s been in my iTunes for more than a year I think but I never listened to it until earlier this week. I don’t even recall who gave it to me. It’s lovely.


I know I am not often linking to fashion designers from this notebook. But this collection from Christopher Kane stopped me in my tracks.


Picture at the very top above is Simon Starling, Three White Desks, 2008-09. Photo: Tate Photography

Kiss and Confess

23 February 2009

Unhelpfully headlined but long and otherwise very nice Guardian piece on Forced Entertainment by Lyn Gardener, as the company prepares to revive the second durational performance we ever made Speak Bitterness. First presented in 1994 the work has been shown in its long version only three or four times, the last of them in Frankfurt about 5 years ago. I’m really looking forward to going back to it and have been busy collecting and writing new confessions.

We argued about small items on the bill, complaining that we ought to pay less than our colleagues because we’d drunk tap water not mineral water, or because they’d had deserts and we had not. We went around local stores asking them to donate prizes in a raffle that didnt really exist. We were ghostwriters. We were graverobbers. Under our leadership the company made an operating loss in its auto operations of 150 billion yen, or $1.7 billion, for the fiscal year ending March 31 – the company’s first annual operating loss since 1938, a year after the company was founded, and a staggering reversal of the 2.3 trillion yen, or $28 billion, in operating profit which had been earned in the previous year. We were unprofessional. We were completely incompetent. After a period of reflection on the comments we made, we called a hasty press conference and took back every word. We apologised for any offence or embarrassment that we undoubtedly caused. We said that it was not our intention to make unfounded and distressing allegations and to make clear that we retracted our comments without reservation. We orchestrated the first worldwide Ponzi scheme — a complex pyramid fraud that lasted longer, reached wider and cut deeper than any similar scheme in history. When telling a story we lacked the skill of abbreviation. We confess to X-Boxes, Gamecubes, Megadrives, PSPs and PS3s. We put our feet in the footsteps of those who went just before us. We didnt make our own route, we just traipsed along behind. We got sent back to the past to stop the future from happening. We got sent to the future to ask them for help, guidance or a powerful weapon of some kind but when we got there we found the place deserted.  We offered miserable discounts. We offered support and down-home guidance to our staff. We filmed a frog’s leg, twitching on a slab. We just wanted to work for the Beckhams. We sowed a horses head onto the body of a cholera patient, replacing his feet with hooves and his hands with the tentacles of an octopus – he didn’t last long but once cleaned, pickled and placed in an outsized jar he made an excellent attraction. We had sex in the visionary position – sat far apart on opposite sides of the room and gazing and, masturbating, staring at each other in a mixture of fear, desire and disbelief, certain in the knowledge that even if we came together we would not come together at all. We worked at Guantanamo. We worked at Abu Ghraib.We designed the Millennium Dome. We were Neocons. We lived in condos. We drove the planes right into the towers – it was beautiful, beautiful, beautiful and it changed the world. We lost our grip. When daylight came we lost our limited charm.  

Speak Bitterness is on 28 February, from 6:00 – 12.00 midnight (European time) at  PACT Zollverein, Essen, Germany.

There will also be a live webcast of the whole event on the Forced Entertainment website from 5pm to 11pm (UK time)


You can find a work of mine amongst the many in this show in Manchester:

{Part 1} Curated by Mike Chavez-Dawson

14th-28th Feb 2009. Rogue Project Space – Rogue Artists Studios.

66-72 Chapeltown Street, Piccadilly, Manchester, M1 2WH

Opening Times: Wed – Fri 1pm – 4pm. Sat – Sun 2pm – 5pm/

Press release info:

The Kiss of a Lifetime is a limited edition print show featuring the work of both internationally renowned artists and emerging talent from the UK and abroad. The show aspires to give an overview to what the ‘Kiss’ signifies within our contemporary culture in the broadest sense, from the romantic to the lifesaving, from the prosaic to the violent. The show is presented salon style, with the artists proofs pinned to the wall – like that of a love forlorn bedroom covered in posters of idolisation.

With over ninety artists the show features; Mark Applegate, Magda Archer, Edward Barton, Dave Beech, Divyesh Bhanderi, Simon Blackmore, Andrew Bracey, Brass Art, Lee Campbell, Paul Caton, Suki Chan, Lucienne Cole, Jane Chavez-Dawson, Mike Chavez-Dawson, Sandy Christie, Faye Claridge, Nick Crowe, Sophia Crilly, Antony Crook, Gordon Dalton, Alexandra David, Jo David, Stephen Davids, Gary Daly, Paul Davis, [deletia], Sarah Doyle, Sam Ely, Tim Etchells, Freee, Doug Fishbone, Bec Garland, Dom Garwood, Dave Gledhill, David Griffiths, S Mark Gubb, David Hancock, Shona Hadley, Lynn Harris, Paul Harfleet, Richard Healy, Andy Hewitt, Len Horsey, Rachael House, Stewart Home, Hilary Jack, Mel Jordan, Naomi Kashiwagi, Mark Kennard, Serena Korda, Abigail Lane, Jean-Pierre Lapeyre, Wiebke Leister, Chara Lewis, Charles Lindsay, Katrin Lock, Tessa Lynch, Jo McGonigal, Mark McGowan, Jude Macpherson, Melanie Manchot, Jim Medway, Alexis Milne, Jason Minsky, KristinMojsiewicz, David Molloy, Franz Otto Novotny, Joerg Obergfell, Matthew Pawson, Gary Peploe, Vinca Petersen, Anneké Pettican, Harry Pye, Brian Reed, Katy Richardson, Isabel Rock, Kenny Schachter, David Shrigley, Pamela So, Lisa Solminski, Paul Stanley, Chris Taylor, William Titley, James Topple, Jessica Voorsanger, Charlotte Young, Kai-Oi Jay Yung, John Walsh, Simon Woolham, Andrea Zapp, + Further Special Guests TBA.

Out of Now

20 February 2009

I, Sam Hsieh, plan to do a one year performance piece. 

I shall punch a Time Clock in my studio every hour on the hour for one year. 

I shall immediately leave my Time Clock room, each time after I punch the Time Clock.

The performance shall begin on April 11, 1980 at 7p.m. and continue until April 11, 1981 at 6p.m.

Tehching Hsieh, One Year Performance: 1980-1981


My friend and collaborator on various projects Adrian Heathfield is about to publish a new book – Out of Now, the first major publication on the extraordinary, influential (and until recently rather overlooked) Taiwanese-American artist Tehching Hsieh. I made a small contribution to the book, in the form of a letter to Tehching, a short excerpt from which is below.

The UK Public launch for Out of Now (published by the Live Art Development Agency and The MIT Press) takes place on Monday 2 March at 14.30 at Club Row Gallery, Rochelle School, Club Row, London E2 7ES. There will be presentations by both Tehching and Adrian, who’ll do his performance-lecture Walking Out of Life, discussing the aesthetics of duration and questioning the models of time through which performance art has predominantly been interpreted.

Here’s the press release info:

In the vibrant downtown Manhattan art scene of the late 1970s and early 1980s, Tehching Hsieh made an exceptional series of artworks: five separate one-year-long performances that were unprecedented in their use of physical difficulty over extreme durations and in their absolute conception of art and life as simultaneous processes. After years of near-invisibility Hsieh has now collaborated with the writer and curator Adrian Heathfield to create this meticulous and visually arresting record of the complete body of his artworks from 1978-1999. With contributions from the art theorists Peggy Phelan and Carol Becker, and the internationally acclaimed artists Marina Abramovic, Santiago Sierra, and Tim Etchells.

(I’m doing my level best to feel like a natural part of that line-up!)

Ticket info: Bookings for the public launch event are essential. Tickets £5 (includes a free drink). Book by phone +44 (207) 033 0275 (credit/debit card payments) or email enquiries to

Adrian and Tehching have made Out of Now a great publication – a meticulous and evocative documentation and an insightful creative evaluation of what I think are some of most challenging, extraordinary and simple performances ever made. I hope what I’ve written for the book gives some idea of the work and what significance it has for me.


The work is also, of course, about extraordinary acts of prolonged yet voluntary subjection, about living life in ways that would normally only be endured coercively, as during incarceration, or as a consequence of extreme socio-economic and/or cultural relegation. It’s about the voluntary imposition of limits to freedom, comfort, opportunity and experience, creating what are in effect unimaginable conditions of physical and mental duress, isolation or hardship. Think monastery, religious order, messed-up cult, labor camp and terrible prison but done quietly, with love and for art. You were living inside the simplest, and harshest of self-made rules.

I was thinking a lot about waste; about apparently wasted time, wasted potential, wasted life. About denial (self-denial, social denial) as a core mode of artistic operation. If capitalism’s structures are repeated in your work they are mirrored without the key element of productivity. It is different in each of the projects of course, but in the “Time Clock” performance especially, the violence is felt instantly in the lack of any product at all (or any actual “labor”). There is only the submission or control of body, time and space, the endless regulation and tracking of (human) resources. The work is time served. A perfect model of late capitalism in fact, in its product-less purity. All the discipline without the pay-off of an object. Prison labor organized by Samuel Beckett. Pointless non-manufacture. Absurd. The act of being is what’s regulated in an extreme form here but it is disciplined to produce nothing.

I was thinking also that at the core of each project is denial. The rules or framing statements you make for each work are mostly prescriptive negations. You create an economy of denial which puts itself squarely at odds with the capitalist orthodoxy, an orthodoxy which for growth requires (and manufactures) endless and expansive micro and macro change–a tedious infinity of new demands, needs, consumptions, social interactions and lifestyle options which must all in turn be facilitated by yet more movement, devices, products, human labor and built spaces.

The work is a direct affront to the quadruple towers of commonsense: productivity and usefulness, self-expression and consumption. A systematic Dada nothing, 365 days a year. A no. A no thank you. Or Bartleby’s “I’d prefer not to” writ large. But always (to be clear) a refusal framed and ordered in the terms of the ruling institution–a reified reiteration–the kind of extreme and profound negation that I guess can only be produced by excessive compliance.

From Time Served, Letter to Teching Hsieh, in Out of Now.


Brainard Carey (Rail): Let’s talk about your first one-year performance when you built a cage that you lived in without reading writing or talking. Did you have many visitors, that is, an audience?

Tehching Hsieh: I only let people come in 18 times, not 365 days. It was scheduled. People found out through posters, talking or neighbors. My friend put posters in the street.

Delia Bajo (Rail): Why one year?

Hsieh: Because one year is the largest single unit of how we count time. It takes the earth a year to move around the sun. Three years, four years is something else. It is about being human, how we explain time, how we measure our existence.

From a 2003 interview with Tehching at The Brooklyn Rail.


New York Times review of Tehching’s ‘Cage Piece’ documentation currently at MoMA in New York.  His ‘Time Clock’ documentation is meanwhile at the Guggenheim right now in their show “The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia, 1860-1989.”

Dream Fragment

18 February 2009

A dream about X's child. I'm at their house. The kid daughter is playing with some strange creature, a toy, that is in some way animated/electronic, in the form of a dog. In the game the dog creature seizes the daughter by the wrist. they push and pull, the daughter is released. The dog robot thing chases catches her again. there's laughter but there's something wrong in the scene, hard to tell what. Later in the dream the daughter sits at the table with us to eat and in the background the robot dog thing continues to play… only now there's a second robotic figure playing the role that the daughter occupied previously in the game. glimpsing this from the corner of my eye I realise how like the daughter this second robot is but im not sure if that's been noticed by the others. I'm also not sure if the the girl, in her game, 'plays at' being (takes on the role of) the second robot or if the robot and its actions are somehow in any case modeled on her.

One of those confusing dreams in any case. In which late on (stlll dreaming) I realise that I would like to write this down. So in the dream already I am searching for words, dream tongue testing sentences, over and over and with each of them I seem (or fear) to get further from the truth of what I have seen.

Out of Here

11 February 2009

Adding new scenes and fragments to the text for Void Story. Trying to make sense of the shape.

R: Where you heading?
A: We just want to get out of here.
R: That’s where I’m going. Climb in the back. This front seat is full of stuff.
R: I’m Rhian. What are your names?
B: I’m Kim and this is Jackson. We’re exhausted.
R: I used to work for a Plastics Company. Before the whole thing went bust. My husband left around the same time, just after my dad died and then my son got sent to prison. The oldest one that is. The first one’s been in prison for ages. Then my house got washed away in a flood. It’s been a bad year so far. Am I talking too much?
B: No. It’s OK.
R: I drive a lot, working sales now. I find that talking helps me stay awake. I have to cover big distances. up and down the road network like nobody’s business. I mean I like the car, then other times I don’t like it at all. It’s funny like that. But the talking helps…
My daughter said I talked too much, god rest her soul. And my grandaughter used to agree. I don’t see her anymore, since they immigrated. Her dad got court-martialed then the coma of course.. After the earthquake I was so unhappy I started to diet. Weight loss, weight loss, weight loss. Doctor said I had distorted body image. To me I just looked fat. My dog died. The new house I moved to was a total disaster. Talk about bad neighborhood. I got these sores from a river bed full of pollution. Are you sleeping?
B: Just looking out of the window.
R: Don’t mind me. I’m sick but what I’ve got’s not catching. A golden voice my dad used to say, well before he moved out. The road I lived on got bulldozed by accident. I had my uterus removed. A bad year. I asked them if I could live without one. And they said don’t worry, you’ve got two, you can lose one, get rid of the other. Liars. I fell in love with this guy. Oh. He was beautiful. He had such grace. Such grace. But he stole my stuff and sold it all. Ebay he said. Go look on Ebay. And the pictures he took of me too. Disgusting pictures. What he did to me, with that sexual organ of his.
B: Where are we going?
R: The nearest town. There’s a Dance Marathon. I won’t enter but I do love to watch. People dancing for days on end, dancing and dancing – last ones to drop are the winners. Prizes are huge. You can eat on that for the rest of your life. Never want for anything. Never want at all.
B: Sounds good.
R: He’s nice your friend. Would you sell him to me?
B: No.
R: I need someone to work around the house. I’m looking for someone, a slave I suppose..
B: He’s not for sale. He’s a person with free will.
R: Suit yourself. We’re in the city now. You two better get out.

All In The Mind

8 February 2009

Lyn Gardner weighed in with a very nice Guardian blog entry today about the (imaginary) True Riches season for ICA London which Ant Hampton and I have organised (see just below). Fair amounts of confusion for the project as skim-readers persist in thinking that the programme is real. Would be more than nice if it was – all we need is the budget and the venue. Oh yes – and the time.

Ant meanwhile sent a link to an earlier more-or-less virtual/on-line/private exhibition project done by ICA Staff back in 2006. Very smart.

Over at LADA my Heroes & Heroines of Live Art T-Shirts are selling fast. Will feel a bit sad about the ones that don’t sell somehow.

Heroes, Sight and True Riches

3 February 2009
Heroes & Heroines of Live Art

The wonderful Live Art Development Agency, led by the inspiring Lois Keidan, is ten years old. LADA invited a number of artists to make editions/projects for their birthday and these editions went on sale yesterday at their online bookstore Unbound alongside its usual selection of cool and interesting books. Contributing artists to the presents series include Franko B, Hayley Newman and Richard Dedomenici as well as myself, each of us has created the work around variations on the number ten in terms of editions or prices. The presents range from mass produced, cheap and cheerful stuff, to limited edition artworks.

My project Heroes & Heroines of Live Art (First 110) takes the form of T-shirts celebrating the names of 110 artists from (and around) the Live Art canon.  Each unique shirt bears the name of an artist rendered in a “suitable” (or not so suitable!) typeface. Only one of each shirt – ethically made 100% cotton and with vinyl cut lettering – will be produced. Last time I looked Jack Smith and Marina Abramović had both gone already but Bas Jan Ader remained. Maybe he’ll be the last to disappear. The shirts cost £25 and come in S, M and L. Full list of the artists included on the t-shirts here, the other presents and editions are here. This one here, by Anne Bean, is esp nice.


My performance project Sight Is The Sense… with the amazing Jim Fletcher has presentations in the UK this week. Bristol and Leeds are done already and are followed by Nuffield Theatre Lancaster (Thursday) and Site Gallery Sheffield on Friday. More tour/gig details here. And a nice Guardian review here.

True Riches

Finally the project True Riches: A Programme of Live Art for the ICA is launched tomorrow (Wednesday).

It’s a collaboration I’ve been working on with Ant Hampton (Rotozaza) and was started in reaction to ICA Director’s Ekow Eshun’s decision last year to close the Live Art Department at ICA London. Ant and I have now (virtually speaking) re-opened the Department through this independent curatorial project which includes  contributions from an international group of artists, curators and thinkers working in and around Live Art. We hope the True Riches programme – downloadable from the project’s web site here – shows off some of the range, energy and dynamism of contemporary live art practice and belies last years closure. A second season of (virtual) work is planned for later in the year.

True Riches #1 features contributions from: Geraldine Pilgrim, José Antonio Sánchez, La Ribot, Gary Stevens, Vivi Tellas, Nicolás Goldberg, Christine Peters, Yara El-Sherbini, David Rosenberg / Shunt, Rajni Shah, Bill Aitchison, Goran Sergej Pristas, Frauke Requardt, Momus, The Centre of Attention, Duckie, Lois Keidan, Borrowers-International-Network, Hannah Hurtzig, Home, Zhana Ivanova, Station House Opera, Janez Janša and Stefan Kaegi.


Dickensian era throw backs in the weather. Laughing apprentices at some small steelworks bombard passers by from the rooftops down by the long closed down Niche all nighter venue. Beautiful how the three lads up there silhouette against the flat gray sky as they duck up from behind the low wall on the roof, pelting those that struggle unsteady in the deep snow on the pavements below. A trio of more or less amiable snipers. Snows good for yer one of them yells, shell suit hood pulled tight around grinning face, two gloved hands containing missiles at the ready. Just don't eat any that's yellow says the other and they launch the attack, laughing. Even those struck seem fine, resigned to their fate in sniper alley, somehow glad that the world does not work properly today and, partly mesmerised by their own irregular footsteps, the steady dampening of the city, its slow descent, now begun, into the silence and stillness that will bind it at night. Up near home it's much the same, traffic already at more or less a standstill, the pavements a mix of strugglers and impromptu fighters. At the Exhaust Fitters/Car Maintenance place right opposite my house the blokes have pretty much abandoned work in favour of more pressing business, and are all out on the forecourt, an army in blue overalls defending their territory against a small group of kids/teenagers that are dug in behind some parked cars on the opposite side of the street. Snowballs vault the road, pedestrians caught in the crossfire, the odd car taking its chances to pass thru, wheels grinding and slipping as the shots fire overhead. The kids – a mix of Asian lads and white boys, a few girls in their headscarves,  all bare hands, no gloves, are outnumbered in any case by the laconic blokes in blue, the music of the latter spilling from their workshop, their Radio One clanging out into the landscape from tinny forecourt speakers to fall on the foot churned snow. There is something of carnival in it, and a total joy in the ease and delight with which people abandon the regular day and let loose into this one.


And this from my friend Alan Read:

"As we waited 18 years for this modest correction I wondered if this might be a balance to the arguments about lost GDP and travel chaos:

'The city without the child’s particular motion is a malignant paradox. The child discovers its identity against all odds, damaged and damaging in perpetual danger and incidental sunshine. Edged towards the periphery of attention, the child survives, an emotional and unproductive quantum. When snow falls on cities, the child, taking over for a while, is all at once Lord of the city. Now, if the child thus assisted, rediscovers the city, the city may still rediscover its children. If childhood is a journey, let us see that the child does not travel by night. Where there is some room, something more permanent than snow can still be provided as a modest correction. Something, unlike snow, the city can absorb; and not altogether unlike the many incidental things already there the child adapts anyhow to its own needs at its own hazard.'

Aldo Van Eyck, quoted by Francis Strauven in ‘Aldo Van Eyck’, Amsterdam: Architectura and Natura, 1998, p. 169.