I went to the press preview yesterday of Tino Sehgal’s show at the Guggenheim and it was absolutely amazing. I’m hesitant to talk to much about the specifics, because for me part of the fun of the experience was not knowing what to expect, but I will do my best to review it without being a spolier. If you’re not familiar with Sehgal, he’s a Berlin-based artist who works in a medium he calls “constructed situation.” His works rely entirely on the human voice, the human body, and human interaction, which he doesn’t allow to be photographed or documented in any way. He hires actors to construct scenes in which they interact with viewers. It’s performance art, but you’re the performance.
I saw a piece of his at the German Pavilion at the Venice Biennale four years ago, where you walked into a big room that felt like an art gallery, and everyone was standing around, looking for the art. Then one by on the security guards started walking up to visitors and singing, “This is so contemporary, contemporary, contemporary.” The other guards would walk over and then a group of them would sing together, then disperse and go back to acting like security guards again. For me the experience of the piece was watching the other visitors’ reactions to the oddness and discomfort of the situation, and gaging my own.
There are two pieces on view right now at the Guggenheim, both of which I liked even better than the one in Venice. One is choreographed, and the other is interactive. The interactive one deals with progress, wisdom, the cycle of life, and it utilizes New York’s best museum building impeccably (even if the show itself weren’t so good, it would be worth seeing for the experience of walking through the Guggenheim freshly painted and entirely empty). I find Sehal’s work weird and interesting and incredibly compelling for the way it makes me think about what makes art good. When walking through this piece I found myself thinking that if the point of art is to make you feel something (which for me it is, in a nutshell), the medium Sehgal uses is probably the most effective. What better way to make you feel something than by literally using your words, actions and emotions to construct the piece?
January 29–March 10, 2010
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
1071 Fifth Avenue (at 89th Street)
New York, NY 10128