Art Review: Tino Sehgal – These Associations @ Tate Modern

Tino Sehgal and participants of These Associations outside Tate Modern. Photo courtesy of Gabrielle Fonseca Johnson, Tate Photography 2012

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

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Tabish Khan 2

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  • Dean Nicholas

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

  • friend

    they are not volunteers 

    • Tabish Khan

      Thanks, corrected.

    • Tabish Khan

      Thanks, corrected