18 February 2006

Someone should undercut him: £20 a word is a much better deal

Psst, wanna buy a word of art?
by Dalya Alberge

HERE’S the deal: a man will whisper a word in your ear and you will become the proud owner of a work of art; a limited edition at that. This is the art of Tino Sehgal. You buy a single word for £25, selected by the artist, which the manager of the shop at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London conveys to you in a whisper. As always, collectors are advised to beware of forgeries — about which there has been more than a whisper in art circles — but such is this artist’s following that five people have parted with £25 since the show opened this month.

Word is that the Tate has also bought one of his works, This is Propaganda, which will be performed next month.

When a visitor walks into the room, a woman dressed as a gallery assistant will turn to the wall and sing, “this is propaganda, you know, you know” twice. The Tate declined to reveal what it paid, but it is believed to be a five-figure sum.

Sehgal, 30, a Londoner who lives in Berlin, does not create tangible objects. At the Venice Biennale last year, a group of gallery assistants surrounded each visitor and chanted, “this is so contemporary, contemporary, contemporary”, in an otherwise empty room.

The artist works with “interpreters”, including museum guards, to create art that challenges “traditional museological contexts”. Last year, he put on a show at the ICA — once described as one of the greatest ideas laboratories in London — which involved an “interpreter” writhing on the floor every day for six weeks.

His latest exhibition at the ICA, which runs until March 19, explores the “progression of life”. Each visitor is met by a child, who guides them into an empty room before asking, “what is progress?”. The visitor is then handed over to a teenager, who takes them through the non-public areas of the building into another empty exhibition space. They are met by a middle-aged interpreter, who passes them on to an elderly interpreter, who leads them back to where they started.

The artist said: “I am interested in creating products, but by rethinking the notion of a product as a transformation of actions, rather than as a transformation of material.”

This was not “performance art”, he said, but “constructive situations that happen to you”.

The Times, 15 February 2006

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