Tino Sehgal has been everywhere the past few years – with a major retrospective at the New York Guggenheim in 2010, and now simultaneous commissions at the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall as well as dOCUMENTA (13). What is most striking about Sehgal’s work in general is the complete absence of objects or anything marketable – instead, the works exhibited at all three of these iconic spaces have been social interactions, created by the employment of trained dancers and volunteers. Sehgal’s background in both dance and economics have led to his radical disavowment of things – none of his works leave a trace (not even photographs), instead, they must be experienced or described, which he believes provides a counter-model to the object-obsessed tendencies of the art market.
Sehgal’s These associations, will occupy the Tate Modern’s behemoth Turbine Hall until the end of October. In addition to being the Turbine Hall’s first ever “live commission,” it also marks the end of the acclaimed Unilever Series, which since 2000 has commissioned large-scale works by Ai Weiwei, Anish Kapoor, Louise Bourgeois and nine other artists to fill the museum’s massive industrial hall. Much like the works shown at the Guggenheim and dOCUMENTA (13), Sehgal’s Unilever commission is comprised of a myriad “of participants whose choreographed actions use movement, sound, and conversation.” The combination of the participants and the visitors creates a visual, oral and auditory cacophony that fills the hall like it never has been before.
Sehgal’s large-scale works of “constructed situations,” as he calls them, have garnered a wide range of responses but his ever rising popularity points to a desire to experience art that leaves the object behind – instead encouraging personal interaction and story sharing. His works bring to mind a plethora of questions from concerns about the economics of art to the ever increasing lack of interpersonal relationships rising from the hegemony of digitally based relationships, yet for Sehgal, the most important question is “can something that is not an inanimate object be considered valuable?”
Be sure to view Sehgal’s work currently on view at dOCUMENTA (13) until September 16th, and his Unilever commision on view at the Tate Modern until October 28th. For an in depth profile of Sehgal, check out the New Yorker’s recent profile.