At the Do-it 2013 exhibition in Manchester, artists propose a score, a set of rules or instructions that other artists, or the audience, follow. My current favourite artist, Tino Sehgal, took on my other favourite artist, Felix González-Torres. Tino’s pieces are moving 9quite literally), simple, immaterial, anti-fragile. He studied dance and economics and has effectively used this background in all the pieces of his I have experienced. Seamlessly. Experienced is the right word too, as you will see …
Tino’s take on González-Torres score might seem simple but of all the pieces in the show – and there were many memorable ones – this is the one that stayed with me. Tino did not interpret González-Torres’ score; he executed it and, given this, he came up with something that, of course, looks very much like a González-Torres piece. Or does it?
Do-it has been going on for a while and this piece has been represented a few times. Watch carefully. It is never the same, I know, but it was only when Neil pointed it out that I realised what had moved me so much about Tino’s execution. His piece is at the entrance of the show, in an out-facing corner, open, vulnerable, but THERE. There is something about the intimacy of the piece hat begs a far away inward corner, a silent reflection on love. Tino, however, has brought out something different.
It is an odd piece to do for Tino, mainly because of its materiality, but the execution is perfect because it is so like Felix’s. I mean, how would you change this piece? It is a piece that is and that is why the instructions are so lovely.
Tino’s work is experiential, immaterial, focusing on a phenomenological encounter with site (not always sight) and performer. Someone told me once he does not even sign contracts, he is so immaterial. It is all done on verbal agreements. Might be an artistic myth but I quite like the idea of it. there are two other myths that also tie in with this integrity: until recently he did not let himself be photographed and papers had to send in a drawing artist, and he has the web looked at for guerrilla footage or images of his work, which are shortly after taken down. His work is not documented in the conventional way, don’t look for it. There will be no postcards in he museum shop, even though he has showed at the Guggenheim New York and Tate Modern. Your best bet are clumsy (some less clumsy too) reviews that try to articulate and make sense of what one experienced.
First, you have to find the place, not easy when you are catching a train in 50 minutes. I was there for the opening weekend, a sunny one, so there were inevitable queues of fans and curious. But we got in. I freaked out. It was dark, very dark, and we were all going into a dark, unknown space. There were many of us, 40, 50, none looking particularly coordinated in these circumstances. I am small and, even with vision, I tend to get hurt in these situations. Well, lets not be dramatic … I get walked on and pushed. So I hung on to Neil’s hand for dear life and shuffled slowly, feeling I was in a ramp, and far too close to other blind bodies. Someone takes a mobile phone out. Wimp (but at least I know there is that resort if I panic. No one has given us a health and safety briefing and there are no rules here, like there were in the other show). I was so concerned with my own space that I forgot to listen. And I should have, for there was an amazing group of dancers and singers going all out, putting a show for me. I felt them moving. Hair on my arm. Not once did they bump into me in to 30 minutes I stayed there. The songs were lovely (Good Vibrations!) and varied in tempo, showing the full range of those very hard working performers. I cried. of course I did. This is art at its best and it is something you do not see every day. My eyes got used to it and I did not feel a crippling sense of inadequacy, although I still could not see. Every so often, bright light would come on and we were blind again. I even liked it by the end of it, as we got to see more. Or perhaps, to pay more attention.