“my works of art only exist in memories”Tino Sehgal: the artist who refuses to be pigeonholed
To describe Tino Sehgal’s work is to miss the point: you have to witness it live. Only then can you really know his art. There are no official photographs or video recordings. Just retellings. Little urban myths. There are gallery attendants who, at random intervals, start dancing and singing “This is so contemporary!” complete with jazz hands. Or you may find a little girl who wanders around the gallery engaging strangers in profound discussions about capitalism. There’s also a huge group of people who suddenly… well, you should probably see it for yourself.
Sehgal, who was born in London in 1976 and raised in Germany, creates “constructed situations”. That’s how he defines his art. Performers act out his instructions and the people standing around are part of the work. Sehgal doesn’t bother with catalogues or captions and even though some shaky mobile phone recordings have shown up on the internet, his art is, and will remain, about the here and now, and the element of surprise.
“Somehow it exists in my mind, in my body and in the bodies of the people who know how to do it, and it also exists in their memories, and those of the people who saw it,” Sehgal has said of his work. And although he is against the established art market criteria, the Tate Modern in London and the Guggenheim in New York have paid hefty sums for an original Sehgal without a written contract. You really do have to be there.