Kiss that Goodbye

by Chris Jagers February 9, 2010
The New York Times’ Hollin Cotter has recently reviewed Tino Sehgal’s show of performance based art at the Guggenheim. It is a highly praised show, but the no-photography policy (of the artist) is making just as many headlines, see here and here. (Everyone notes how untenable this position is). Even the New York Times starts the article with an “illegally” taken iPhone photo.The artist’s given reason for this policy is because he is trying to capture “the fleeting gestures and social subtleties of lived experience rather than on material objects.” (Via Guggenheim statement notes). Rather than focusing on how impossible this position is, I want to talk about why this is naive and/or insulting to other artists.

Performance art (in general) is an enacted work of art that takes place over time (and perhaps a social layer). Other types of performance include music, dance, theater, etc … all these art forms are happily reproduced. Everyone realizes that the reproduction is nothing like experiencing the original.

Further, even without the dimension of time, the same can be said for material objects. Experiencing a material art object is a fleeting, lived experience that no jpg can reproduce. When Tino Sehgal (or any artist) takes the position that their artwork cannot be photographed because it contains something that other artworks don’t, they insult everyone (as if other artwork can safely be photographed without much loss).

Sorry to sound mean, but I wish everyone would get over this photography issue. This is just another eye-rolling moment that only hurts the artworld.

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1 comment

ryanfitzer February 9, 2010 - 17:03

Yeah, because the reproductions of Robert Irwin’s work make me feel as if I was truly there…

Now that artist put such a fine point on it, his piece will simply become the photograph. Maybe that was his intention all along.

But yeah, great point on the insult.


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