Tino Sehgal at the Guggenheim
Review by Judy Halter
Image from Holland Cotter’s review in the NY Times, caption read: ‘A photo taken on an iPhone shows “The Kiss,” part of Tino Sehgal’s show of ephemeral art at the Guggenheim Museum.’
Tino Sehgal at the Guggenheim Museum New York, New York
Late one night I plowed through the latest NY Times Magazine section and was fascinated to read about an upcoming exhibit at the Guggenheim that sounded intriguing to say the least. The work by 33 year-old Berlin artist Tino Sehgal was described as conceptual art. It is an experience driven form of art that transcends the visual encounter. Many have touted it as “ground breaking.” After buying our tickets and being seriously threatened should we dare to use a camera or video, we walked in and were immediately witnessing two lovers (clothed) on the floor of the Frank Lloyd Wright designed rotunda. Their embraces were sensuous and sometimes a bit uncomfortable to watch. Though one readily appreciated the passion in their actions, their faces were void of expression. We wondered why. It was a bit of a disconnect because there was much chatter surrounding this display of passion but the chatter quieted down in time. “The Kiss” was powerful and thought provoking. Perhaps because there were more people there, one could reflect more about the artist intention. If alone in the room with this couple, one might feel very intrusive and not want to remain to witness their intimacy. Thus the crowd gave the piece anonymity. “The Kiss” was a worthy prelude to our next very rich experience.
We then proceeded up the spiraling ramp of the Guggenheim which had been cleared of any visual arts, a first in the 50 year history of the museum. A beautiful little 8 year old girl named Isabel, brimming with poise and confidence, reached her hand out to us and introduced herself. That was the beginning of a 30 minute stroll up the infamous Guggenheim walkway. Isabel asked us what we thought “progress” meant. We each gave our various perspectives which ranged from “the definition” to Obama. After 5 to 7 minutes of a good discussion on “progress” we were introduced to a young woman around the age of 20. Isabel, beautifully reiterated what our thoughts on progress were and this next individual brought up the topic of “frontiers” which we conversed on for the next 10 minutes as we were proceeding up and around. Then we were introduced to a man in his 30s and we discussed borders and frontiers with him, each of us weighing in with our insights and hopeful intellect. As we approached the top of the Guggenheim we were introduced to our last host who was in his late 60s. He was a lovely man and we spoke at length with him of our interpretations of “home”. In thinking back, I felt the exhibit was a reaction to technology. It is always nice to go to a museum and stimulate the mind, and this exhibition attained that objective. One had a responsibility to engage and be present, to look someone in the eye and converse on broad topics that could be simplified or taken to great depth depending upon the people involved. These experiences are seemingly becoming few and far between. The art of conversation was beautifully demonstrated in this enriching exhibit. A novel experience!
Judy Halter lives in La Jolla, California. Leave comments here or write to firstname.lastname@example.org with any follow up questions for the author.