Can writing do justice to the art of Tino Sehgal, or should we only make utterances? How do we preserve Sehgal’s work, or is there nothing to preserve — only an endless series of originals? Even after three months, there are still so many questions: Is this good? New? Propaganda?
In 1956, the Situationist Guy Debord called out for an “ educative propaganda,” on account of “ the emergence of productive forces that necessitate other production relations and a new practice of life….that must encompass all the perpetually interacting aspects of social reality.” Who knew such serious education could be so funny? So tongue-in-cheek? Though, physical comedy has always been a social leveler.
And it takes up space, which makes it sculptural, where “ we mold and shape the world in which we live” (Joseph Beuys). Not unlike planting thousands of trees or moving a mountain of sand. Only without the trees and without the mountain of sand.
Yet, we are not deserted. All is not lost. Between production and de-production, between absence and presence, between object and viewer, between you and me, an endless reverberation. A (sub)liminal sublime.
The way you keep singing the song you woke up with in your head. The way each movement can be broken down and put back together. The way you know what this is before I even have to tell you. It’s not a headline but a broadcast–a conditioned choreography in which the audience is on/in demand.
Your attention need not be long, but should you accept the invitation — should you give of yourself the time and place — you will see this is not a “ dance problem,” per se, like a man bouncing in the corner. It isn’t even about the not-so-hidden camera rolling on the floor. No, it has to do with something more sustaining.
In a 2001 interview, the artist Mel Chin described his remediation project Revival Field (1991-94)–a Superfund site-specific work that took place at Pig’s Eye Landfill on the outskirts of St. Paul, Minnesota–as “ driven by some kind of poetry. That poetry of plants having the capacity to transform a system…[yet it] was also driven by pragmatism. I think you have to have both.”
What is the poetry of Tino Sehgal? What is the pragmatism? The answers are in the questions, I think, but they are also between the lines. And what we will be left with, what will remain, will soon blend into the landscape and be invisible, but still here.
Joseph Beuys, La rivoluzione siamo Noi, 1972, phototype on polyester ink, ink stamp; edition 7/180. Published by Modern Art Agency, Naples, and Edition Tangente, Heidelberg. Alfred and Marie Greisinger Collection, Walker Art Center, T.B. Walker Acquisition Fund, 1992
Francis Alÿs, selection from Cuando la fe mueve montañas (When Faith Moves Mountains), 2002-2003, acrylic, graphite, masking tape on vellum. Collection Walker Art Center, T.B. Walker Acquisition Fund, 2004
Bruce Nauman, Bouncing In The Corner, 1968, Video. Collection Walker Art Center, T.B. Wlaker Acquisition Fund, 2002
Dan Graham, Roll, Filming Process, 1970, Super-8. Courtesy of Andre Goeminnie Collection, Nazareth, Belgium
Mel Chin, Revival Field, 1991-1994, Pig’s Eye Landfill, St. Paul, Minnesota. Courtesy greenmuseum.org