Magazine article Artforum International

Tino Sehgal an Interview

Magazine article Artforum International

Tino Sehgal an Interview

Article excerpt

Tino Sehgal has spoken of a "situational" dimension to his work, and the same word might also describe the publication of this interview. Over the course of the past year, I approached the artist a number of times about the possibility of contributing a project to the magazine, or of taking part in a conversation. On each occasion we had an extended dialogue before setting aside the idea, often concluding that the proposal, as it stood, was not quite commensurate with his practice. These negotiations alone would have made for quite an interview in these pages, providing valuable insight into the true rigor of Sehgal's endeavors while miming, almost comically, the intriguing gamesmanship of his own work. As the following discussion evidences, the artist did finally agree to speak with us--but apparently we are still negotiating the terms of exchange.

TIM GRIFFIN: What is your idea of "deproduction"? Or better, how would you describe the simultaneous production and deproduction that you claim for your work?

TINO SEHGAL: "Deproduction" in itself isn't of particular interest to me but the simultaneity of production and deproduction is. The mode of production that takes place in my work is what one could call the transformation of actions. If one does a movement or sings or speaks, then one is obviously producing something. But immediately as a note ends or the movement stops, it is gone; it deproduces itself. In the prevalent mode of production (which most other visual artworks adhere to and thus promote)--which is the transformation of material--deproduction is something that at best takes place after the product has been used, not as something inherent in it but as something external to it. So even the deproduction of a material thing needs again more labor and resources to be invested in it.

The reason I'm interested in the transformation of actions and the simultaneity of production and deproduction is because I think that the appearance in Western societies in the twentieth century of both an excess supply of the goods that fulfill basic human needs and mankind's endangering of the specific disposition of "nature" in which human life seems possible renders the hegemony of the dominant mode of production questionable. Obviously, this doesn't mean to propose an essentialist "No" to material objects in general but rather leads to the question as to how we could produce things that, on the one hand, aren't problematic and, on the other, are more interesting or complex, or less static.

TG: Still, do you fear that your "deproduced" entity might end up a material production? Is it possible that even when you put something out in a "deproduced" fashion, it can be--and I use my next word reluctantly--reified, or brought back into a material mode? I know, for example, that you don't allow photographic reproductions of your work.

TS: My work isn't deproduced; it is produced and it is material, but the difference is that it materializes itself in the human body and not in a material object. I don't make photographic or filmic reproductions of my work, because it exists as a situation, and therefore substituting it with some material object like a photo or video doesn't seem like an adequate documentation. Also, my works take a form that exists over time--as they can be shown over and over again--so they're not dependent on any kind of documentation to stand in for them.

Your reference to this classical discourse of reification connotes a critique of the material object as product, that there is something inherently problematic about something becoming a product. That's not my line of thinking. I criticize the mode of production inherent to a material object but not the fact that it can be bought or sold.

TG: There was a time when, for certain artists, distribution was part of the artwork. Your work seems, if not antithetical to a distribution model, actively resistant--or a kind of antimatter, removed yet reactive. …

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