Jaime Isenstein in "One Minute More" at The Kitchen
As of tomorrow, Friday, Guggenheim visitors will find a museum stripped bare by a bachelor. 33-year-old Tino Sehgal, younger than jesus, will take over the museum by emptying the walls and halls of artwork, staging two TBA performances, and subsidizing visiting crowds with 200 stooges hired to mingle with the tourists. UPDATE: The NYT says he is 34. My bad!
This show can be best understood through its influences. He is a young artist, after all. So art lovers seize the opportunity to list the inventory of gestures and exhibitions built around an empty space. Artist Matthew Weinstein says on JSF (Jerry Saltz’ Facebook page), “nothing going on here is more radical then a sol lewitt drawing diagram, duchamp’s paris air ampule, and the entire career of john cage. and that’s fine. he’s working within a well established tradition, and adding to it.”
Magnus von Plessen at Gladstone
Saltz himself identified Gabriel Orozco’s Yogurt Cups, now at MoMA, as “an homage to the Empty Gallery as Work of Art.” A few years ago, Ralph Rugoff curated A Brief History of Invisible Art. Months ago, Adriana Lara appropriated the New Museum’s opening hours as her entry in its Younger than Jesus survey, as well as the daily ingestion of a banana by a museum guard, who would then leave the empty peel on the shiny floor. In 2007, Urs Fischer excavated a giant pit from the poured concrete floor of Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, literally ripping GBE a new hole. Months before that, Terence Koh exhibited at the Whitney Museum a near empty gallery, occupied only by a charcoal-colored sphere and a Klieg light. In 2003, Trisha Donnelly released I Am Taking Your Morning, a CD recording in which she describes how she steals every aspect of your morning: your bed, coffee, newspaper, cigarette break, etc. In 2001, Simparch built a skate bowl at Deitch Projects, leaving the content of the show up to the skaters who made use of the space. Since 1991, Rudolf Stingel has done show after show in New York of near-empty galleries. You can find more examples of emptiness in each of the last few decades.
So it isn’t new to vacate a gallery. But then isn’t it ironic how a show that owes so much to art history is banishing the tokens of that history? We can best explain Tino Sehgal by invoking his ancestors in the brinksmanship legacy of dematerialization and relational aesthetics. That tale had been reported by DIA, but then muted, when DIA went so Minimalist that it closed shop! Yet Sehgal’s response to inherited art history is to wipe the walls clean, deforming the Guggenheim into one circuitous tabula rasa.
No, no! We said "Rasa"
This is poignant – or not – when compared to other negations of exhibition. The Met had to withdraw Picasso’s The Actor after a woman ran into it (literally ripping Picasso a new hole, ha ha). Worse, the Met is hiding its depictions of Muhammad and deleting “Islamic” from the “Islamic Galleries.” (Read David Shapiro’s razor-sharp response at Muse.) If the Met can’t defend itself against clumsy visitors, at least it can try to avoid pissing off bloodthirsty Muslim extremists. At the Met, art is concealed under duress and fear; for Tino Sehgal, it’s the anti-exhibition basis of an exhibition. Rigorous? Or decadent?
The empty museum isn’t the goal of the show, it’s just the means to the real goal, which is the interaction of the visitors with each other and with the space. “Sehgal seeks to reconfigure these conditions by producing meaning and value through a transformation of actions rather than solid materials,” says the Museum. But is that a myopic view? Hysterical? Art has often been exchanged as anticipated action instead of material. Again, Sol LeWitt wall drawings… Or an advance payment for a commissioned portrait of some old Queen or other. How about Momus’ Stars Forever album, whereby interested parties paid Momus $1,000 to write a song about them? Jeff Koons did, and he paid not for the song itself, but for the service of creating a song. (And it’s a great one.)
Breakfast of Chomp-ions
From the Gugg: “a visitor is no longer only a passive spectator, but one who bears a responsibility to shape and at times to even contribute to the actual realization of the piece. The work may ask visitors what they think, but, more importantly, it underscores an individual’s own agency in the museum environment.” In other words, we won’t have to stand there all day looking at some crusty old painting, or cumbersome sculpture made by some dead guy. We will be the art! Us! I’d better order some teeth whitener!
After all, people are more valuable than art. That’s why I’ll hang in a museum when I’m dead, and my bedroom will be Landmarked, like Benjamin Franklin’s phantom house by Robert Venturi. Guggenheim also says that Tino Sehgal “considers visual art to be a microcosm of our economic reality, as both center on identical conditions: the production of goods and their subsequent circulation.” Is that accurate? What kind of goods? I am no Ben Bernanke, but I always thought the mercantile economy operates on mass manufacturing, while art is commonly a distinct one-of-a-kind. Art is more like luxury goods, right? And that’s not really a microcosm of anything, just a mirror of conspicuous consumption. I think McDonald’s burgers or Chevy trucks would be more of a microcosm. -The End.
UPDATE 02-10-2010: I finally saw the show. It was incredible! I plan to post something later this week about my trip.