Friday, February 26, 2010

The afterthought experience

Do you know Tino Sehgal? You know, the artist that doesn't allow any pictures taken of his works? And doesn't write any introduction, or artist statement? Or make written agreements with museums? That wants no material artifacts in his works?
Does it matter what the works are?
They are performative. More: they are performances. They are people doing things in exhibition spaces. They are things happening with people within an exhibition framework.
They could be happening to others (say, someone kissing). Or to you (say, someone talking with you).
You might never discover which part was the work. Yet somehow, you often do.

Once again: Does it matter what the works are? Once you experience something, what good is the analysis?
But we are pretty smart animals. We may experience, and still want to think about it. We may want to decide what we think, and if we will go to see this thing again or not. We may rework this experience in our mind until we decide, say, that this is just not enough. That a good ice-cream would have done the job. Or a meeting with a friend. Or both combined. Maybe in a museum. Maybe accompanied by a stranger, having a conversation about progress. The luxury of conversational art. Now isn't that progressive.

Then again, what is wrong with living a series of perfectly good conversations put into a gentle, clean formal frame? Can't we just accept this? What is it that makes one (me) so voracious?
Is it the fact I've never actually seen a Sehgal, done a Sehgal?
Isn't the picture enough?
Or the reviews that seem to make a huge effort in taking the mimetic weight off the image and putting some of it on words?
Paradoxically, all the effort put into keeping it live seem to make us focus not on the thing, but on this very effort. Would Tino Sehgal be at the Guggenheim had he allowed taking pictures? So what exactly is the work, here? How come I feel it so clearly, if it's all about presence? Or am I just feeling its double, its fake, the afterthought? But isn't that crucial in experience? Doesn't that re-constitute the experience once it is over? Can one re-construct something one did not experience in the first place?
You would have to have been there. The most dreaded sentence in the world. What are we supposed to do with it? Take a hidden snapshot?

Tino Sehgal is on at the New York Guggenheim until March 10.


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