The Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal is presenting two works by Tino Sehgal, one more choreographic and the other grounded in discourse and exchange.
His most iconic piece, Kiss, 2002, involves a couple enacting interpretations of well-known kisses from art history.In a tightly choreographed eight-minute loop, the two dancers transition seamlessly from one pose to the other and then reverse roles.
This situation, 2007, which was recently acquired by the MACM in the bilingual (French-English) edition, is akin to a contemporary salon. Drawing from quotations selected by Sehgal from 500 years of thought, players discuss amongst themselves and with the visitors such issues as the aesthetics of existence and the implications of moving from a society of lack to one of abundance. The interpreters have been very carefully selected from local dance and intellectual communities by his producer, who worked with them over a period of weeks in preparing the exhibition.
Tino Sehgal, who was born in Britain in 1976 and lives in Berlin, creates what he calls “constructed situations,” choreographed gestures and spoken instructions that are acted out by “players” and “interpreters” in museum and gallery contexts. Explicitly not performances, they are on view continuously during a museum’s opening hours over a period of at least six weeks. The conceptual nature of his practice grows out of an investigation into what consti tutes a work of art and a crystallization of the art experience, which for Sehgal entails a direct engagement, in the here and now, between visitors and players in carefully choreo graphed situations. The visitor is conceived as a fundamental part of the work and may, if he/ she chooses to participate, dramatically alter its unfolding.
The immateriality of Sehgal’s work stems from an antipathy to the object and a polit ical conviction about the excessive proliferation of goods in Western society. He locates it specifically within a museum context which he considers a microcosm of our economic reality. Sehgal, whose training is in dance and political economics, places economics at the heart of his practice: “My big question, which I think is the question of my generation, is that the way we produce nowadays, the social form of economic organization, is not going to be able to persist, and we are going to be measured against the question of how we are able to adjust to that.”
In keeping with Sehgal’s strict opposition to manufacturing objects, the process of acquiring one of his works consists in a purely oral transaction involving the artist or one of his representatives, the director, curators and registrar of the museum, and a lawyer. The conditions of acquisition and installation are recited and committed to memory by all present, the price is discussed and when both parties are in agreement, there is a handshake. No paper documentation accompanies the acquisition. Conditions of presentation include the remuneration of all players and a strict refusal of video or photographic documentation, printed press releases, catalogues, labels or didactic panels.
Tino Sehgal’s most recent pieces are This variation, which was presented at Documenta (13) in Kassel, Germany this past summer, and These associations, in which seventy players filled the immense Turbine Hall of Tate Modern in London. He has had major solo exhibitions at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, ICA in London and Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and represented Germany at the 2005 Venice Biennale.