Tino Sehgal, This situation
Thu Jan 3 2008
Photograph: Courtesy of Marian Goodman Gallery
Time Out Ratings :<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5
As everyone who’s anyone in the art world will tell you, Tino Sehgal is the new It artist—a rising star, whose work, like many Conceptualists’, requires much expenditure of words to understand.
For This situation, his New York debut, Sehgal offers up a sort of tableau vivant of deep thinkers: A group of six trained “players” (from a pool of 30, working in four-hour shifts) in an empty gallery engaged in conversations on topics ranging from politics to economics to philosophy. The parameters of this colloquy are determined by the artist and it usually begins with one of the cast reciting a quote. Instead of just standing around chatting, however, they also engage in languorous, tai chi–like motions—slowly turning or sitting or even rolling around on the floor. Whenever a new visitor enters the space, the discussion stops as each player intones, “Welcome to this situation,” while taking a deep breath. (Three “faint” in unison.) Then the whole shebang starts up again on a different subject.
Sehgal, who’s half-German, half-Indian and lives in Berlin, never allows his work to be photographed or publicized in any way—a strategy that undoubtedly adds to the mystique that’s made him an instant curator’s pet. There’s no denying that This situation is engaging, even if the artist comes off as being a bit too much like the smartest kid in the class—the one always raising his hand. Like an Upper West Side cocktail party unmoored in zero gravity, This situation floats off in arbitrary directions. But that’s part of its charm.