Writing

The extensive use of quotations in the list of artworks above reflects the fact that there is very little ‘original’ documentation of the pieces, for example artist’s statements, photography or recordings. Most information about the pieces comes from anecdotal evidence. These descriptions of the pieces appear not only as off-hand comments in informal publications, such as internet blogs (where one would expect this level of commentary), but also crop up as a common feature of magazine reviews.

Writers attempting to discuss Sehgal’s work find themselves placed in a difficult situation, because the artist deliberately eschews any record of the work, which would seem to be an implicit prohibition on others too. By denying documentation the artist could perhaps be seen to key into strategies of immateriality in conceptual art or of site-specificity, which puts into question any re-creation of the work in another medium.

This problematic has been described as “attempting to give them a title, to describe or to list them, that is, to enter into rivalry with the form of the work itself, which is the affirmation of what it is.” (Moisdon, 2003) This can be misunderstood as an impasse in the process of addressing the works, if by writing about the work one somehow subverts Sehgal’s own attempt to prevent documentation.

Moisdon suggests that the form of the work is also to title themselves, to be a description of their own state and that by doing the same in another venue, she is somehow performing an ‘anomalous’ activity. There is obviously an expectation here that is being thwarted through this anomaly – the expectation that the work of art presents itself as a complete thing-in-itself, something akin to an object (if not objectified). This would run counter to Sehgal’s aims with the works.

Sehgal himself makes clear that writing is a necessary part of the work, as part of its reception:

There was once a review of my work in your magazine in which the writer wondered if, in the very act of writing about my work, she was necessarily betraying it. That’s complete nonsense in my view. As with any other art, my work wants to communicate and is dependent on its reception. (Sehgal, quoted in Griffin, 2005)