Spontaneous and contagiously uplifting, controversial artist Tino Sehgal’s This is so contemporary, 2004, enlivened the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, in summer 2014. The work featured a cast of twenty-six interpreters, who directly engaged visitors at the gallery’s entrance through dance, voice and movement.
Born in Germany, Sehgal studied political economy at Berlin’s Humboldt University and dance at Folkwang University of the Arts in Essen, later apprenticing with French artist/choreographer Xavier Le Roy. “What interested me in dance,” Sehgal explained, “was it was a way of producing something and nothing at the same time”.
Sehgal has since pioneered a radical way of orchestrating “constructed situations”, featuring rigorously trained and rehearsed “interpreters”, employing dance, voice and movement in museum and gallery spaces.
The youngest artist to represent Germany at the Venice Biennale, participating in 2005, when he presented This is so contemporary, and again in 2013, Sehgal was awarded the 55th Venice Biennale’s prestigious Golden Lion in 2013. That same year, Sehgal presented This is new, 2003, in the 27th Kaldor project, 13 Rooms.
Sehgal’s works have become renowned for subverting the relationship between viewers and art, demanding a new way of engaging with art and ideas around art, politics, production and ownership. Distinct from both performance art and theatre, Sehgal’s situations demand a different kind of beholder; one who cannot be a passive spectator, but bears a responsibility to contribute to the realisation of the actual piece.
Not permitting his work to be photographed or filmed, Sehgal leaves no material trace, creating something at once valuable yet intangible that “seems to revel in its own contradictions”, as Anne Midgette observed in the New York Times. “It is created with extreme, even obsessive, rigour, yet it is subject to change, as the only record exists in the minds of those who see it”.
Tino Sehgal's This is so contemporary was re-presented in 2019 as part of the exhibition Making Art Public: 50 Years of Kaldor Public Art Projects at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
born 1976 in London, England
lives and works in Berlin, Germany
This is so contemporary
6 February – 23 February 2014
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
Tino Sehgal’s radical and captivating way of making art leaves no material traces. The artist refuses all documentation, the works remaining a mystery to those who have not directly experienced them. Born in London in 1976, the Berlin-based artist, who originally studied political economics and dance, constructs “situations“ by orchestrating interpersonal encounters through dance, voice and movement. His works elicit a different kind of viewer, one who cannot be a passive spectator, they bear a responsibly to construct and contribute to the realisation of the actual piece.
As Tino Sehgal’s work is intended to leave no material traces, this Education Kit is designed as a simple selection of references, with links to texts and videos exploring the concepts, process and reception of the artist’s practice.
LEARNING STAGES: Senior secondary (Stages 5-6) | Tertiary
ARCHIVE for Project 29 - Tino Sehgal
The Kaldor Public Art Projects archive has been collected over more than 50 years, and features rare and original documentation on the process of realising large-scale, temporary art projects. With thousands of items accessible online through the Digital Archive, it serves as a valuable resource for artists, students, teachers and researchers.
Please note that due to the nature of Tino Sehgal’s work, this Project can only be discussed orally. With the exception of a small number of press clippings and photographs of associated programs, archival material from Project 29 is not available online.
John Kaldor shares his personal recollections of working with artist Tino Sehgal to realise the 29th Kaldor Public Art Project at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, in 2014. (10:44, Kaldor Public Art Projects, 2021)