Wednesday, March 10, 2010

An Art Exhibit Minus the Art

When Paul and I went to the Guggenheim Museum last weekend, we went not to view art, but to be art.

The occasion? An installation (?) by Tino Sehgal.

The Guggenheim's rotunda was entirely cleared of all artwork, the walls completely white. We were the art. When I write it like that, the exhibit seems like a rip-off. Why spend time or money on a piece of art I can find in my mirror?

But it was more than that. The museum describes the exhibit like this:

"Relying exclusively on the human voice, bodily movement, and social interaction, Sehgal's works nevertheless fulfill all the parameters of a traditional artwork with the exception of inanimate materiality."

In fact, the so-called artwork "can be bought and sold, and by virtue of being repeatable, they can persist over time."

Here's out it worked. Near the start of the exhibit, a child (a more "permanent" part of the artwork) introduced herself to us and asked us what we thought progress meant. The conversation continued until a woman in her 20's or so took over for the girl. We got passed from person to person, the abstract conversation continuing through about five people and 10 minutes. Looking throughout the museum's space, it was difficult to determine who were the visitors and who were the people hired to keep the conversation -- and the pace -- moving.

It's difficult to explain-- this New Yorker brief explains it much better (and explains what you see toward the bottom left corner of the photo above).

I'm still not so sure that this is art so much as theater. But I will admit that the experience made me think more than any piece of canvas ever has.

The long line to the Guggenheim.

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