Magazine of art press and reviews from London
Tino Sehgal is the last Unilever Series exhibition at Tate Modern.
David Franchi – Sunday, 18th November 2012
“this is a form of theatre”
“These associations” by Tino Sehgal closed with great success, highlighting the Unilever Series was a massive project, running for twelve years at Tate Modern.
The exhibition of Tino Sehgal was probably the last one of the long Unilever Series. The contract was not renewed at least for the period of time the Tate Modern will be temporarily closed. The Turbine Hall, in fact, will be affected next year by the construction of the gallery extension designed by Herzog & de Meuron.
Tate Modern has unveiled the first live commission in The Unilever Series created by the artist Tino Sehgal. Using movement, sound and conversation, Sehgal’s work titled “These associations” draws on the existing atmosphere of the Turbine Hall and its unique position as a public space within a museum.
In general, it is difficult to write about Tino Sehgal performances, and for many reasons. Firstly, they are all live action which is performance art. Tino Sehgal was a dancer, with a discreet success. What he tries to do is to create art without any material production. He organizes live action of which there is no record.
On the sale of his work, Sehgal stipulates that there is no written set of instructions, no written receipt, no catalogue and no pictures. The conversation that constitutes a Tino Sehgal sale consists of his talking to the buyer (usually a representative from a museum) before a notary and witnesses about five legal stipulations of the purchase: that the work be installed only by someone whom Sehgal himself has authorized; that the people enacting the piece be paid an agreed upon minimum; that the work be shown over a minimum period of six weeks (in order to avoid seeming more like a theatrical event than an art exhibition); that the piece not be photographed; and that if the buyer resells the work, he does so with this same oral contract. This means that his work is not documented in any way. As of 2010, the “constructed situations” sold in editions of four to six (with Sehgal retaining an additional “artist’s proof”) at prices between $85,000 and $145,000 apiece.
The art-performance of Sehgal consists of trained people – not actors – meeting other people lively. The performers walk, run, sit on the floor and chant in unison, occasionally playing what appears to be a game of tag, resembling a flash-mob. They combine with people queuing for the tickets and start to talk about their personal life.
Action seems not to be working well as visitors feel the unusual situation but not really involved, lamenting the distance f the trained people- but not actors.
At Tate Modern, performers were around two hundred, dressed in casual clothes and trainers, working in four-hour shifts and are paid £8.30
per hour the current London living wage. They represented a cross-section of society. They were selected and coached in a series of workshops over the course of a year.
Now, despite the “anarchic” definition that has been used to describe Tino Sehgal’s performances it seems to me that this is a pure theatre show. Anyone who has been trained in acting knows this is a form of theatre, and also not very new as it has been used since decades by many.
According to Tino Sehgal the artwork is the situation which arises between the audience and the interpreters of the piece. Afterwards, the work of art will exist only in the world of experience and memory of those who directly experienced it. Sehgal does not allow his work to be neither photographed nor illustrated; any documentation or reproduction, in order to focus all the attention on the physical evidence. Again, this is theatre. There is nothing new and different from Sehgal’s work and some theatrical pieces.
However, his works respond to and engage with the gallery visitor directly, in philosophical and economic debates. Having trained in both political economics and choreography, Sehgal’s works are renowned for their high levels of critical reflection on their environment. And it is amazing that such kind of performances could be supported by the multinational Unilever, which is highly criticized for environmental crimes, including the deforestation of rainforest and condemned for establishing price-fixing cartels.
Sehgal is born in London (1976) and currently lives and works in Berlin. He is currently included in Documenta XIII and had a solo exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in 2010. Sehgal represented Germany at the Venice Biennale in 2005. Solo exhibitions of his work have been held around the world, including Villa Reale, Milan; ICA, London; Kunsthaus Bregenz; and the Marian Goodman Gallery, New York.
This commission is part of the London 2012 Festival, the finale of the Cultural Olympiad. It is curated by Jessica Morgan, The Daskalopoulos Curator, International Art, Tate Modern and produced by Asad Raza. The commission is also supported by the Goethe Institut.
At Tate Modern, Turbine Hall, Southbank, London.
From 24th July until 28th October 2012