Several days a week Purchase Professors Marc Brudzinski, Nina Straus and Jenifer Uleman head to the
They are joined by students Celia Brisson, Lucas McCaslin and Rafay Rashid.
All are participating in a special art event called a “mise-en-scene” in the Guggenheim in which the London-born, Berlin-based artist Tino Sehgal engages visitors in both spectatorship and direct participation. It is part of the
Tino Sehgal constructs situations that defy museum and gallery environments, focusing on fleeting gestures and the social subtleties of a lived experience rather than material objects. He relies exclusively on the human voice, bodily movement, and social interaction. His works fulfill all the parameters of traditional art. He uses museums, galleries, and art fairs as his arena. Visual art for him is a microcosm of our social reality. He seeks to produce meaning and value through a transformation of actions rather than solid materials. Throughout his work he explores social processes, cultural conventions and the allocation of roles, thereby not only redefining art production but also reconsidering fundamental values of our social system.
Viewers are no longer passive spectators but can contribute to the realization of the piece.
To accommodate the two pieces created by the artist, all works of art have been removed from the Guggenheim’s rotunda for the first time in the museum’s history. The Sehgal works are presented on the rotunda floor and along the spiraling ramps. One work called “Kiss” is performed like a modern dance piece in the same spot during regular museum hours and involves pairs of performers (professional dancers rehearsed by Mr. Sehgal), who appear in three hour shifts. They perform poses derived from Courbet, Rodin, Brancusi and Jeff Koons.
The second work called “This Progress” uses all the Purchase professors and students as interpreters. Each was personally interviewed and selected by the artist.
In this work the viewers are part of the action. It begins as the visitor walks up the ramp a short distance and is met by a child greeter who says “This is a work by Tino Sehgal.” The child asks a question “What is Progress” and engages in a conversation. Further up the ramp a teen-ager joins them and introduces himself. The conversation is paraphrased and the teen-ager continues a conversation. Half-way up the ramp the teenager turns the visitor over to an adult in his or her 30’s who introduces another topic. As the visitor reaches the last stretch of the ramp the adult introduces the visitor to an older person who engages in yet another conversation about something in the news or a personal experience. After a short dialogue, the last interpreter stops and gently says on cue, “The piece is called ‘This Progress’ and walks off.” The opening question and the closing line are the only parts scripted by the artist.
Professor Jenny Uleman has been spending two three days a week as an interpreter. “It has been a transformative experience” she says. “You have short conversations and discuss topics you could never bring up with a person you meet in everyday interactions. In four minutes you can have short and very real conversation on topics such as “What do you think of technology,” “What is the meaning of life” or you can discuss something personal. The exhibit provides an amazing window into the preoccupations of people who come to tour the exhibition.”
Everything is extemporaneous. The interpreters rehearsed the timing with Mr. Sehgal but otherwise, like the visitors, everything operates without instructions. No conversations are ever the same. No photographs are allowed. What remains are remembered ideas. His works evoke questions of responsibility within an interpersonal relationship.
Tino Sehgal is the youngest artist to present a solo exhibition in the Guggenheim rotunda. The exhibition was organized by Nancy Spector, Nat Trotman and Katherine Brinson of the Guggenheim continues through March 10.