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The Art of the Situation

August 19, 2009

Thinking tonight about dance in unexpected places, I remembered a piece I saw at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago a couple years ago.  The piece by Tino Sehgal called Kiss involved two performers, a man and a women, in a long, languished, liplock always moving yet slowly enough that they seemed almost still.  The piece was mesmerizing not only because of this slow-motion pace but because you couldn’t help but stand and stare at this dance choreographed to mimic two people essentially making out in the gallery.

To me, there are two elements that make Sehgal’s work more intervention that dance work.  The first is the environmet.  There is no fourth wall here in a gallery.  There is you, and the “artwork”…and in this case, the artwork can hear you and see you; it’s breathing the same air as you and will get up and go home in an hour or so.  It’s hard to tell where the art ends and your experience begins.  The other is that Sehgal’s work sells for upwards of 5 figures.  By handling his pieces like traditional object based work, he allows for an elevation of the medium.  By not allowing photographs, videos, or even written instructions or bills of sale, he ensures the piece remains true to it’s intention: to create a genuine experience via the art of situation.  The creation of an interruption.  Something you can’t touch or look at again.  Just a moment and then a memory.

“What interested me in dance,” he added, “was it was a way of producing something and nothing at the same time.”

In this day and age of people recording every move they make from the 1,500 digital pictures you took on your vacation to the video you made of yourself recreating the Single Ladies music video in your bathroom to every 140 character expression of your daily life, it’s hard to imagine something getting by without a lick of documentation (ok, besides the very occasional digital image like the ones show here).  Perhaps it is in this that we find joy in Seghal’s work.  The purity of experience (for the sake of experience) that’s so hard to find these days.

tino-kiss chicago


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