So what does gesture tell us about Tino Sehgal’s work and what value does it have?
Sehgal’s pieces seem a good fit for Agamben’s gestic politics – they deliberately eschew a product or remnant of any kind, and implicate the audience in a perpetual game of the confusion of roles with the other participants of the piece. The pieces themselves do not live outside of memory and make the audience physically aware of their role within the institutional context of the gallery or museum and within the piece itself.
Sehgal’s work relates to Agamben’s concept of gesture in a sense through it’s retreat form material form. Sehgal’s strategy of no documentation ensures that the materiality of the pieces remains in abeyance (although this action in itself becomes an important discussion point). By taking this approach to residue, the works emphasise the temporary nature of their acts, which in themselves incorporate gestures in the commonly understood sense of the term. For Agamben gesture requires that “nothing is being produced or acted, but rather something is being endured and supported” (Agamben, 1992, p. 56) which would seem to be a good description of the experience of a Sehgal piece.
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.