Monday, March 22, 2010

a bit of acidity

Tino Sehgal's Kiss is contentious for some, not because of the work itself--in the context of art museum, it is called a living sculpture--but because of how the choreographer got money: he sold the rights to the performance itself. His "entrepreneurship" is mildly criticized, ironically, in America. Carol Kino's article appearing in The New York Times, March 10, 2010 describes a workshop at MoMA, which took place prior to Marina Abramović's exhibition:
There was a whiff of rebellion in the air at the MoMA workshop, for example, when Mr. Sehgal gestured at the glossy rosewood conference table before him. "This is a new touch," he said, his voice tinged with acid. "I'm not sure whether there's ever been such a salon around such a corporate table before." 
And as the talk turned to money, the acid splashed back toward Mr. Sehgal, who in his brief career--he is just 34--has started an approach to selling performance art that is both providing museums with a new way to take ownership of it and enriching himself.
I would say acidity also penetrates Kino's way of describing the workshop. According to him, Abramović reportedly seemed "genuinely" curious and asked Sehgal how he did it "in her heavily accented English." What does he want to emphasize in noting "heavily accented English?" I wonder if Kino tried to emphasize the fact that both Sehgal and Abramović are from Europe. Implication of the description might be, if I translate, "Though this lucky guy takes money from American institution, he speaks ill of corporate America. Moreover, his work much owes American performance art in the 1960s."
The article is mainly about MoMA's current shift in the way it treats performance art. There has been a big barrier between performance art and dance since the 1980s in America, as Helmut Ploebst wrote in his no wind no word, New choreography in the society of the spectacle (K. Kieser, 2001), which portrays 9 choreographers (including American Meg Stuart) who mainly work in Continental Europe, explains history of contemporary dance to theater-goers and was distributed by some "progressive" theaters in Continental Europe. So is between performance art and visual art in America, I guess. Generally, performance art may have been a hard sell in America. Though Kino is not particularly critical about the current trend that MoMA or Tate Modern has started collecting pieces of performance art, his attitude is rather ambiguous and I feel such an attitude is very much like The New York Times.
Neither do I know how an artist should be paid nor whether Sehgal is politically correct or wrong. As far as I know from art history, artists have to some extent been parasitic, for good, I could add. Artists have always needed a master. Even in Europe, it is a relatively rich (and touristic) city that can provide residency programs for young artists and hold interesting exhibitions, and good reviews often appear in some business newspapers rather than the left wing one.
One could say Sehgal adopted or mimicked the way big companies rent intellectual properties or privatize natural resources, but look at how pathetic the money he got is: it may survive him for an year or so, but cannot buy him even a decent house. I could add a pathetic joke: he should sell the documents associated with the contracts as an artwork in order to get some extra money.

No comments:

Post a Comment