It’s difficult to find textual information on Tino Sehgal, probably because he exercises a policy of no objects and no photos or recordings, which makes it difficult to research the essay I’m writing on his work.
Here I’ve collected some quotes from online sources that may prove useful.
de Selby is in some places transcribing the artists own words, so while they will be useful in themselves as opinion or critique, I’m also trying to get hold of the recording of the original talk for the source material.
The Moisdon article is perhaps the most interesting from a theory point of view, while the Frenzhel piece has lots of Sehgal’s own comments.
As Moisdon says, the works make for an interesting situation for a writer, leading you into what could easily become “tautological traps” – I see this as an opening for some philosophical debate, and I’m looking forward to writing the essay.
. . . his art takes place on the macro level of institution and medium more than on the micro level of an individual work. (de Selby, 2006)
. . . the subject of any particular piece was secondary to it. (de Selby, 2006)
Sehgal said once again that he was not interested in adding more things to the world and that he was interested in figuring out an alternative form of production and exchange. (de Selby, 2006)
. . . he turned to the social institutions of art deliberately because its character and structure lent itself to this sort of experiment. (de Selby, 2006)
His most caustic remark, though—and he apologized for possibly being reductive—was about the antimarket attitude of many twentieth-century avant-garde artists. He said he thought they were misguided and naïve. (de Selby, 2006)
One cannot write about Tino Sehgal’s works without committing a first anomaly, by 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)
. . .a series of traps, which render the artist and the viewer complicit, more by means of play than by default, 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)
This work opposes certain illusions of what one could call the militant modern avant-garde, whilst nevertheless observing the mechanisms by which the art work is a spectacle destined to sacralise merchandise, to dissimulate regulations/deregulations of a system that precisely never really succeeds in distinguishing itself. (Moisdon, 2003)
Even though his pieces sometime appear destined to reveal the relationship of dependence that links the artist to the economic system, they are nonetheless also completely autonomous. and disalienated from this critical and political perspective. (Moisdon, 2003)
He aims for a mental reality beyond a visual reality and rediscovers the implacable (which is not irony) of affirmation. (Moisdon, 2003)
Sehgal’s tautologies (This is good, This is propaganda) are true by definition, and serve to situate the exhibition spaces. (Moisdon, 2003)
Via these affirmations, which contain their own solution, he renders obvious the retreat of knowledge, expertise; this competence, which allows to determine the meaning of an enunciation. Tino Sehgal’s signature does not dominate the representation of the space, it doesn’t refer to him as a real individual; it represents a place which allows ample space for other, equivalent identities. By means of repetition of the signs of self, Tino Sehgal’s enunciations finally liberate the work from the character of the author . . . (Moisdon, 2003)
The museum guards and gallery staff are part of this system of communication; they are the instruments, the relays that allow the artist to pursue his demonstration. Neither subjects now objects, they simply form part of the material elements of a proposal that seeks to verify the post-Duchampian question of the museum as medium, to know whether it is the museum that makes the work or the work that makes the museum. (Moisdon, 2003)
Duchamp affirms that only the artist’s signature suffices; that it is stronger than the institution. With Buren, the signature is the institution; he has no need to place his signature. Tino Sehgal inscribes himself into this perspective, in producing a third voice, a displacement; a subversion of the historical function of the signature and the readymade. (Moisdon, 2003)
That which Tino Sehgal bestows upon the place of his signing, is precisely this space of invention, its necessity: why invent? Why even «present a world» which would «add to» reality? To produce a discourse, a fiction, a representation? Perhaps merely for the creation of employment. (Moisdon, 2003)
Sehgal stages situations in which the observer is directly addressed and required to react. He surprises his viewers without making unfair demands on them. (Frenzhel, 2005)
. . . one wonders more about the framework in which the actions take place than about the actions themselves. (Frenzhel, 2005)
“My work belongs in a museum.” (Frenzhel, 2005)
“What intrigues me in art is the tradition of Duchamp, the possibility that a thing can become different and at the same time remain the same. The objectness of art however, never interested me. Because every object-based artwork affirms the highly problematic mode of production – the transformation of material because it is produced in the same way.” (Frenzhel, 2005)
There are no photographs, no videos of his works – they are saved exclusively in the memory of the participants. (Frenzhel, 2005)
Sehgal wants to go beyond emptiness without losing himself in metaphysics. “For me it’s a matter of looking: what comes after emptiness, how can I create something beyond asceticism or pure negation? One element is certainly the empowerment of the viewer.” (Frenzhel, 2005)
“My work exists in the form of a potentiality – they are realised when the visitor enters. And what happens then is not entirely in my control.” (Frenzhel, 2005)
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 thing can only work because there are certain conventions and the situation plays with these conventions.” (Frenzhel, 2005)
. . . situations in which the distinction between artist, work and viewer are blurred. At this point zero of the white cube logic, something happens which in its fleetingness defies an attempt to interpret; something that is significant but whose significance cannot be pinned down. (Frenzhel, 2005)
- de Selby (2006). Tino Sehgal versus a world full of objects. In Global Warming your Cold Heart (6 July 2006). http://globalwarmingyourcoldheart.blogspot.com/2006/07/tino-sehgal-versus-world-full-of.html [Last accessed 25/2/07]
- Moisdon, S. (2003). «moi je dis, moi je dis» [engish version]. Translation by Kate Mayne. In newspaper (March–April). Belgium: Galerie Jan Mot. http://www.janmot.com/tino_sehgal/text.php [Last accessed 25/2/07]
- Frenzhel, S. (2005). “Ceci n’est pas le vide”: An encounter with the artist of transience Tino Sehgal. In signandsight.com (9 June 2005). http://www.signandsight.com/features/203.html [Last accessed 25/2/07]