All or nothing in an instant

/ 18 June, 2015

Tino Sehgal between ideas and experience


Each work implies sharing a state, a fragment of the artist, his own life experience reflected as an art. Thus the piece creates links between its viewers, those who collaborate with it, making it theirs. It makes them accomplices in a universe of references; it makes them to possess it as a form of culture.

Tino Sehgal ( London, 1976) is one of those artists who have opted for the action and interactivity and to my surprise, is the first that I know that has nothing to do with the previous lines. It turns out that this young man, winner of the Golden Lion at the Biennale di Venezia (Venice Biennial 2013), does not translate his experience in one piece, but creates his art, literally, from other people’s lives.

He rejects the documentation of his works, does not contaminate them with objects or interventions. He does not make concessions, which shows, in my opinion, a serious stance. His pieces are based on the construction of moments, in fostering ephemeral interpersonal relationships, fragments that, henceforth, only exist in the minds of those present. His actions are articulated from an exquisite poetics in its hedonistic and sensual simplicity, such as a whisper or a kiss; but with the intellectual density proper of experts who take to the limit the laws of its context. These are works composed only of actors and audience, which are born and die at that moment; works that, without denying the market, put into crisis marketing structures of contemporary art.

In their rooms, the distance between creator and receiver gets cancelled and suddenly both tax equally, focused on creation of a moment of art. I confess I’m curious about what could a work like Sehgal´s tell us, perhaps illuminating in the marmoreal galleries of Europe, where few remember the feeling that a kiss in public leaves; but that takes its risks on an island alien to the rigor of the art market; where Decency walks in “a certain way” through the streets. It will definitely be interesting to see the re-adaptation of these codes in this Twelfth Biennial of Havana; codes undoubtedly attractive in the Old World, but daily in ours at times.

Tino Sehgal´s work (This is Exchange) is being presented-in short, happening- at Wilfredo Lam Center during the days of the Biennale (May 22-June 22). In one of its rooms, 3 young people await for passersby interested in hearing them talk (in English or Spanish) about the Market Economy and supposedly discuss with them about it. After the talk, they reward the information with 1 peso (CUP).

Personally, the piece little worked to me. I felt the actors were relaxed, perhaps by becoming familiar with my national accent; alien to the ways of guiding the conversation; crushed by my expectations. Maybe I lacked the necessary marketing knowledge to make the talk flowing, or the technical vocabulary to make myself understood, or the required intention; perhaps I was not a great receiver.

After few days of my visit, I think of how we build our experience; how it is flooded with details, lights, warm and cold tones, which are, after all, those who make it so complex. To judge a piece of time-just as we judge a work of art- it is inevitable to apprehend the chaos on its contours, the one that has the power to raise or condemn the moment, the one that can determine a reading. Moreover, a work like Sehgal´s allows as many judgments as spectators, so a search to detect its failure runs the risk of finishing finding my incompatibilities.

Thus, I’ve heard other references of the piece as one of the key moments of the Biennale; opinions that make me to rethink this text over and over again, as there are based on the discursive potential of young people, in the well-crafted script, the depth of the arguments. For my part I did not feel it was something transcendental and, as I prepare myself for a second visit, with some slight I think into oblivion as one of the risks of staking everything on the execution of an instant.


Rigoberto Otaño Milián

Rigoberto Otaño Milián

La Habana, 1987. Licenciado en Letras por la Universidad de La Habana. Actualmente ejerce como especialista del sello editorial Collage Ediciones del Fondo Cubano de Bienes Culturales. Ha publicado textos sobre arte cubano en catálogos y revistas.



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