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.


Robert said...

I admit the show is rather refreshing despite its weaknesses. But it's funny how after a significant history of performance art people call Sehgal's shows shockingly innovative. Perhaps we don't have enough artists producing this type of art?

potenta said...

@Robert: I think you`re right about artists.

vvoi said...

Robert, thanks for the comment. And for the insightful review (
One of the reviews I link to mentions that our art memories are quite short. No wonder - presential art (I mean art where something happens, so experiential, performative, relational, call it as you wish) is so much more difficult to transmit. I am by no means a fetishist of the aura, quite to the contrary, but the very fact that what we get is second-hand stories makes it much more prone to repetition, and all sorts of eternal returns (methinks).
I would say the problem with "this type of art" is to an extent its fragility - its liveness makes it prone to all sorts of undermining contexts. Like yours or mine...

Joomla Development Services said...

Hey! I think your thoughts are absolutely true about artists.Being an artist my point of view is exactly the same.

Unknown said...

I wasn't able to see the show either, which was quite disappointing, but I wrote a blog on it anyways ....

I do think that performance art is still under the radar. That is clear based on so many of the shocked reviews from Seghal's show. But perhaps its not just that performance art is still such a questionable medium, but more that this particular performance, as seen in a typically traditional institution, was lacking in the qualities of performance that make it a type of art. Though I don't really know what those are! It's much harder to define whats performance and what is dance, or performance vs. acting, as it is to look at a painting and recognise aesthetics/talent/etc.

I think there ARE a lot of performance artists, but its still just a difficult concept to grasp...

Jon Nichols said...

Just stumbled across your blog and quite glad that I did.
While not a visual artist myself, I am a writer and I'm intrigued to see artists grappling with the same questions of authorship and "after the experience, what good is analysis?" as composition theorists are.
Again, great blog. May I link to it on mine?

joomla development said...

Really intelligent piece of writing buddy, keep it up and I will keep tweeting your blog posts for you so you can get the readers you deserve!


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