While I was enjoying an exhibit of Matisse’s cutouts at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, my husband excitedly approached me.
“ You must come with me,” he said.
“ I can’t explain, just come right now”
I followed him through a few galleries in the museum into a dark room. I could not see a thing but I heard humming and singing. I was a little frightened to enter the room because it was pitch black. I made my way slowly along the walls. Clapping and whistling were added to the humming and singing. Now someone was speaking, talking about being a child and breaking a window. Over time my eyes got used to the light and I became aware of fuzzy human shapes that were moving and dancing around the room. I wondered if they were holograms with recorded voices until one of them brushed against me. I saw my husband and he looked like one of the ‘holograms’. He had become part of the piece. I found being part of the piece electrifying and exhilarating.
I realized that there were about 15 trained dancers/ singers in the room along with us and the other museum visitors.
I found out later that I was experiencing one of Tino Sehgal’s ‘constructed situations’. Sehgal uses human voice, language, movement, and interaction to create pieces that are regularly staged in museums and galleries. His artworks consist of trained individuals continuously employing voice and movement to create particular conditions. The artwork is the ‘constructed situation’ that arises during the interaction of the audience and the interpreters. Tino Sehgal does not allow images to be made of his work so there are no physical records of what he does. He feels the world is already filled with too much stuff.
This piece of Sehgal’s is called “Variations” and it brought up many thoughts. Among them- if this were in New York, you would never be able to just stumble upon it. Being part of the event would involve long lines. Just happening upon it increased our initial confusion but ultimate enjoyment of the piece. Since we didn’t know what was going on we were forced to trust and to be swept up in the event in an unguarded way. Is this visual art or performance since there are no actual objects connected to the event? Finally how does Sehgal’s work relate to my artwork as a sculptor and clay artist? Sehgal’s work demands that you be entirely in the moment. With my sculptures I am requesting that you take the time to actually observe. In Sehgal’s work you don’t have a choice but to be totally immersed. To appreciate my artwork you must make the decision to give it your attention and let the textures, forms and colors speak to you.