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27 July 2012 | Art & Photography | By: Tabish Khan

Art Review: Tino Sehgal - These Associations @ Tate Modern

Art Review: Tino Sehgal - These Associations @ Tate Modern

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Artist Tino Sehgal is photographed with his participants outside Tate Modern in London, two days prior to the unveiling of his commission in the annual Unilever Series for Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall. Photo date: Sunday July 22, 2012. The work, which will feature his participants and their encounters with visitors, will be unveiled on July 24 and will be the thirteenth to be commissioned in The Unilever Series. Sehgal has risen to prominence for his innovative works which consist purely of live encounters between people. Avoiding the production of any objects, he has pioneered a radical and yet entirely viewer-oriented approach to making art. His works respond to and engage with the gallery visitor directly, creating social situations through the use of conversation, dance, sound and movement, as well as philosophical and economic debate. Having trained in both political economics and choreography, the resulting works are renowned for their high levels of interaction, intimacy, and critical reflection on their environment. The Unilever Series is an annual art commission sponsored by Unilever. Photo credit: Johnny Green

Tino Sehgal’s art is all about human interaction, so the latest turbine hall installation is full of people – no giant suns, no crack in the floor…just a crowd of strangers volunteers. As the space was once used to create huge amounts of energy, Sehgal has chosen to fill this void with human energy.

When we first arrived, the inhabitants were running up and down the length of the hall indulging in what appeared to be an elaborate game of tag. But when they were cornered, nothing would happen and off they’d go again. This exercise seemed more futile than energetic.

Then the space dims and the participants start chanting in time with the lights flickering on and off. Only random words can be discerned such as 'natural' and 'technological'. It all seems slightly cultish, but not in a sinister way, which would have made it more interesting.

Just as things seem to be getting dull, one of these strangers will approach and start retelling a personal moment in their life such as when their grandmother died or their journey from Athens to London via coach. This is when the installation really comes alive.

These are not actors but their stories feel genuine, and one girl appeared to be close to tears when recalling the death of her mentor earlier this year. These intimate conversations create bonds with the viewer and they can last for up to 20 minutes before they pass you on to one of their ‘friends’ and a new story begins. The stories do feel a little rehearsed so we encourage you to be impolite and break their stride with probing questions because only then does the conversation flow more freely and feel natural.

From a distance ‘These Associations’ may seem bizarre but if British reserve is cast aside and you embrace talking to strangers, this is a riveting experience.

Tino Sehgal: These Associations is in the Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern until 28 October. Participation is free.

Other Tate Modern stories

Olafur Eliasson's Little Sun
We review the Tanks - the Tate's latest exhibition space
Damien Hirst's excellent retrospective closes soon 
A look at Munch beyond the Screams

Tabish Khan

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Dean Nicholas

Sounds like the kind of thing we used to do at school drama club. 


they are not volunteers