In the small world of international contemporary art, he’s a star.
Yet he has no objects for sale, unless you include (good) intentions, freedom and a moderate desire to change the world.
His name is Tino Sehgal, he was born in London in 1976 and today he lives in Berlin.
In 2012 he was awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale and in 2010 he took over the entire Guggenheim in New York.
With what? I’d call them performances personally, though it’s a label he rejects. ‘They’re live works of art,’ he says. ‘The performances are not made to be repeated.’
At the Palais de Tokyo, until 18 December, he has installed a series of ten ‘live works’.
It’s a very large exhibition involving 300 people. ‘More than double the size of a corps de ballet. It’s one of the largest living spectacles there is.’
These individuals, directed by Tino Sehgal, will engage you in conversation and interrogate you, in both senses of the word.
A small boy asks ‘what is your idea of progress?’, and the entire length of the piece, different people will ask you questions or share personal histories with you.
Others dance, sing, recite. Should you participate or not?
Why are they asking questions? It’s an interesting experience that touches on solitude and our relationship to the community.
It should be added that the element of surprise is central to the pleasure you get from living Sehgal’s experiences.
I had a meeting with him at the Palais de Tokyo.
Tino is someone who is enigmatic and dogmatic.
The artist appeared a little irritated at first, but he would be more willing to play the game than I’d initially expected.
I even managed to film him, though I’d always been under the impression that it was not allowed. I recorded him too. He even encouraged me to: ‘There are too many inaccuracies written about me. People are attracted by that – what’s forbidden. I’m interested in yeses, not in noes.
It’s just that I personally refuse to photograph or video my work because those traces could be considered works of art. I’m not a filmmaker or a photographer, even though I work in visual arts.’ Tino Sehgal has the courage to make artworks which are not meant to leave traces.
Here he speaks about the idea of a work made to be ephemeral:
Then he adds:’ I do not need to create lasting traces of my works. I can sell them to museums’.
While we’re on the subject, I ask him to explain what the rules are for the sale of one of his works. This is his response:
I read somewhere that Tino Sehgal studied political economy and dance, and it makes sense. His work is perfectly located at the crossroads between the two disciplines.
But what is his political message?
‘Economics cannot continue as it is, based on the desire to keep growing constantly. All activities produce carbon. We cannot keep on going on as we are.’
He says: when I was a child in southern Germany, I could see out of my window the production facilities for IBM, Hewlett Packard and Daimler Benz. I took the same bus as the employees from those companies. Everyone was involved in producing these things. I found these production processes reductive.
What if we tried to produce in a different way? I do it with 300 people who earn a bit of money. Obviously it’s just a model.’
Tino Sehgal is clear: ‘My only motivation is politics’:
He concludes by offering an interesting take on the history of art:
‘Artists turn social realities into poetry. In the 20th century, at the height of production-line work, artists were using the same principle of repetition. This gave rise to minimal art and pop art with Andy Warhol.
Today we live in a service economy. In my own way, I produce a service.
I turn the service economy into poetry’.
( Several artists like Pierre Huyghe, Philippe Parreno, James Coleman, Daniel Buren etc are included in the Carte Blanche to Tino Sehgal at Palais de Tokyo)