[-empyre-] Re: empyre Digest, Hsieh's year-long time piece

Madeleine Reich Casad mir9 at cornell.edu
Fri Nov 16 17:53:13 EST 2007

Hi Cara,

> Once a word leaves my mouth it has become abstract, just slightly  
> removed from the original intent of my brain...
> What strikes me about Hsieh's Time piece is the fact that it is  
> decidedly different in video (or DVD) form than any of his other  
> pieces and from many other documented pieces from that era, for  
> that matter. I wouldn't care to watch him go about daily life tied  
> to Linda Montano or sit in a jail cell on video or DVD. I would've  
> probably rather have been there in those cases. But the Time piece,  
> as a document, is beautiful to watch, a piece of art, a product of  
> the performed action, different from the actual event but probably  
> better, and I don't think I would need to know how he made it to  
> enjoy looking at it. I say "I don't think" because I don't know, I  
> heard the story about how he did it when I first watched the video.
> So many thoughts run through my head when I watch it. A year's time  
> compressed into 6 minutes, in and of itself, is fascinating. The  
> time clock makes me think of working life, the monotony of it, the  
> pull of the clock, forcing him to act every hour, even if that act  
> involves only pressing a few buttons. The staccato movement of his  
> body, the growth of his hair, the punched rows on the clock growing  
> up, disappearing, beginning again. He animated himself like a  
> claymation figurine.

I agree, it is rhythmically beautiful, and very powerful.  But I  
found it awful to watch... maybe because the corporate/capitalist  
frame of reference from the punch clock was so strong, and the clock  
so domineering, or maybe it was something about how he held his  
body....  Or maybe it was just that my own relationship with clocks  
happened to be so agonistic when I saw the Time piece for the first  
time.  Some portion of my brain was fretting about looming deadlines  
(still is!), and I couldn't help but think: a year, what does a year  
mean, when will your year be over, at what time can you finally stop  
thinking about the time?  The fact that the time markers in the work  
didn't effectively mark duration was kind of maddening.  Relative  
duration, that is: the distance from here to there.  His growing hair  
made the duration clear, but not the fact that the piece would  
eventually end.  Norie and Maria, I'm reminded here of that refrain,  
'what time is it?  what time is it now?' from Shock in the Ear.  I  
kept compulsively looking at the clock in the film and kept feeling  
unnerved that its smooth cycle of hours never changed.

Clocks as focalizers of virtual experience....

> In this particular case, the document transcended the act, I  
> believe, and it looked forward to where we are now, where every  
> inane act can be documented and is documented, not for some great  
> purpose, but just to prove that we live and breathe somewhere  
> beyond the technospheric veil.

What a great phrase, "technospheric veil"!  I like the idea of a  
breathable technosphere.


More information about the empyre mailing list