(British, born 1976)
2003. Constructed situation, Dimensions variable
Encountering Tino Sehgal’s Kiss, viewers may be surprised to see out in the open what normally takes place in privacy: a man and woman on the floor locked in sensual embraces and kisses. Dressed in street clothes, they move in tandem. With slow, balletic motions, they continually shift positions: now lying side-by-side, hugging, now standing on their knees and kissing, their arms tightly wrapped around each other, now seated, the woman partially on the man’s lap, her arm hooked around his neck as he pulls her body towards him and kisses her. But this is not simply amorous exhibitionism. It is, rather, a tightly choreographed presentation by professionally trained dancers, who worked with Sehgal to learn and enact this particular work of art, or, as the artist calls all of his pieces, this “constructed situation.”
Sehgal titled Kiss after Auguste Rodin’s sculpture of passionately kissing lovers, The Kiss (1901–04). He modeled its choreography after this and other well known kisses and embraces depicted in sculpture and painting throughout art history, by artists ranging from Constantin Brancusi to Jeff Koons. In his piece, he transforms the enduring, static forms and images depicted in these more traditional artistic mediums into two bodies in motion, and into a living, immediate, and, ultimately, impermanent experience.
Since the early 2000s, Sehgal has been making art that incorporates himself and other people—who he calls “players” or “interpreters”—into staged scenarios orchestrated around movement, singing, or conversation among the players themselves and with viewers. His approach is informed by his training in dance and economic theory, and by his belief that our current system of mass-production and -consumption is both environmentally and socially unsustainable. Through his ephemeral, intangible art, he aims to model a different value system, one based on human energy, actions, and social encounters, and the memories of engaging in these experiences.
A term describing moving-image artworks recorded onto magnetic tape or digital formats, or generated using other mechanisms such as image-processing tools, and available for immediate playback.
The art of creating and arranging dances or ballets; a work created by this art. A person who creates choreography is called a choreographer.
An image, especially a positive print, recorded by exposing a photosensitive surface to light, especially in a camera.
A representation of a person or thing in a work of art.
A three-dimensional work of art made by a variety of means, including carving wood, chiseling stone, casting or welding metal, molding clay or wax, or assembling materials.
A work of art made from paint applied to canvas, wood, paper, or another support (noun).
The materials used to create a work of art, and the categorization of art based on the materials used (for example, painting [or more specifically, watercolor], drawing, sculpture).
The shape or structure of an object.
No Photographs! (Or Any Other Forms of Documentation)
To ensure that his work is experienced and absorbed in the ways that he intends—in the moment, in the memory, and through spoken descriptions—Sehgal stipulates that his pieces may not be documented in any form, including in photographs, videos, audio recordings, press releases, or even contracts for collectors who buy the work. In fact, he structures his work to make these methods of preservation unnecessary. He acknowledges that most ephemeral art requires documentation, since it was not meant to last beyond the moment of its presentation. “My work, on the contrary…can be shown again and again, even in 30 or 200 years,” he explains. “Therefore, this question of documentation is less virulent.”1
On Making Immaterial Art
Sehgal’s artistic career is defined by a paradoxical goal: to produce and profit off of art that is immaterial. “For me it is like an experiment….How can I produce something, which is in a way something and nothing at the same time, and how can I produce an income out of that,” he asks. “Today we have enough material products to the point that they are becoming counterproductive, but we still need to produce things because we need an income. So what else could we produce?”2