Tino Sehgal, This Exhibition, 2004: Week 1

Tino Sehgal‘s This Exhibition debuted last Thursday at the CCA Wattis Institute of Contemporary Art during the opening of Apocalypse Now: The Theater of War, 4decwattis.jpga miniature war zone-cum-art show curated by Jennifer Allora, Guillermo Calzadilla, and resident Jens Hoffmann; Sehgal’s work will cycle through the Wattis galleries indefinitely as a not-so-invisible, yet immaterial addition to each exhibition on view. I, along with a handful of others, am interpreting this particular work throughout the run of Apocalypse Now. A brief synopsis: This Exhibition requires the interpreter (in this particular piece, a gallery attendant) to faux faint each and every time a visitor enters into a given space (here, the foyer of the gallery). Upon hitting the cold, hard cement gallery floor, the seemingly dazed-and-confused interpreter writhes slowly on the ground while reciting a few lines from the curatorial statement in a whispered moan.

And the crowd freaks out. Visitors— most especially those unfamiliar with Sehgal’s work— are often stunned by the falling/ flailing attendant; some panic, or attempt to rouse the interpreter. We were warned of this, but didn’t realize just how priceless those viewer responses might be until we went “live” with the work. What to do then but record them here? I’m in the gallery each Saturday through 26 January. Expect the weekly report shortly thereafter (like, shorter than the following Tuesday. Right.)

Thursday, 29 November (opening night; v. crowded, loud)

Italian Woman: squeals (in Italian, obviously) and jumps away. This, on my first drop. Nice.

SFAI Curator Hou Hanru: “She’s good.” (Also on the first drop. Also nice. Ego effectively boosted.)

Hipster: “Are you gonna make it there, sister?”

Saturday, 1 December:

Kid: Clings to dad’s leg.

Dad: “Oh my, should we … are you alright?” Afterwards: “That was really beautiful in a perverse sort of way.”

Guy: “Holy shit! You scared the living shit out of me!”

Guy’s Girlfriend: “You scared the living hell out of me. Thank you.”

Freshman Exchange Student: “Are you alright?!” (Moves tentatively toward the phone a few times until he confirms for himself that I am not, in fact, having a seizure. Alerts approaching onlookers that I am not, in fact, having a seizure.)

Unidentified Artforum Critic (i.e. not a San Francisco usual suspect): “If I didn’t know Tino Sehgal’s work, I would have called the police.”

[Above: The Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art’s lobby, scene of the crime.]

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Filed under Contemporary Art, Events, Institutional Critique, San Francisco, Theater

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