Audience

[He] seems less concerned with subverting or challenging global capitalism, and the art institution, than with making them freshly visible, open to new possibility. (Steeds, 2005)

Recognising his interdependence with the system within which he works and revealing this interdependence to critical analysis serves as Sehgal’s method. The works do not try to get away from their embeddedness or pretend that they are autonomous within these structures, a choice that Sehgal sees as naive and misguided. Rather, they play with these structures, in an attempt to make them more obvious to the participants.

Play is an important subject for Sehgal. Taking as an example his last piece at the ICA, London, This Success or This Failure, the viewer is thrust into the world of a group of children using the gallery as their playground. The use of play allows Sehgal to engage his audience with the work on an unexpected level, catching them off guard and in the process completely enclosing them in the structure of the piece and making them a part of the action. This set up:

. . . render[s] the artist and viewer complicit . . . of the context in which they come about, of the place in which they are exhibited; of the mercantile system which will, in order to sell them, inevitably seek to extract them from the trap. (Moisdon, 2003)

Moisdon presents the works as being “a series of traps . . .” (Moisdon, 2003) which ensnare the visitor, forcing them to become complicit in their creation. For example the action of self-reflexivity and participation in The Objective of that Object, 2004 whereby the visitor is encouraged to generate the conversation that becomes the subject of the discussion and consequently the object of the work, this is described as a “tautological trap”: “the tautological trap snapped shut: the discussion had become the work, which had the goal of becoming the object of a discussion.” (Frenzhel, 2005)

The structures put in play by the “motor” of this piece encourage entry into a closed loop of signification, whereby the initial proposition by the actors becomes an invitation to the audience to solve the riddle of the piece by their participation.

This drawing in of the audience reveals the transformation of the viewer into participant – willing or unwilling, but unable to avoid the role cast for them by the piece itself.