Unilever Series Commission

Tino Sehgal, These Associations, Tate Modern, London

Yesterday was a miserable, cold, wet, windy London day – perfect condition for huddling up with strangers in the turbine hall, all equally curious to experience Seghal’s “constructed situation”. These Associations is the first live art commission for the Unilever Series that has previously hosted works by Miroslaw Balka, Ai Wei Wei, Doris Salcedo, Olafur Eliasson, Tacita Dean, Louise Bourgeois and Rachel Whiteread among others.

Before the commission was announced I’d not really known the work of Seghal, whose performance-based is constructed entirely of live encounters. Before Documenta I hadn’t experienced it either but I’d heard great things about the Tate work, where crowds of volunteer participants have been choreographed to move throughout the hall using movement and sound – and conversation to engage and enmesh the public in the ‘work’.

Tino Seghal, These Associations, Tate Modern, Unilever Series Commission, 2012

Tino Seghal, These Associations, Tate Modern, Unilever Series Commission, 2012

Some friends had been before and they had had performers approach them and strike up intimate conversations. When we were there it was like the world’s biggest game of statues was taking place. It was hard to tell the audience from the action but there were perhaps two or three hundred people making there way up the hall, periodically stopping around groups of visitors and freezing for 30-odd seconds. Crouching, leaning in, cosseting you in human sculptural forms, before releasing and moving forward and on to another group. It was strange and equal parts absurd and exhilarating. When we passed through the hall again later on they were chanting and singing and running full pelt from one end to another.

I would like to have come back another day and experienced it again because I really appreciate the principles of the work as a work of art – evanescent, emotional, intangible and transforming of space – both architectural and personal. All with a slightly surrealist bent. If only I hadn’t left visiting until the very last day.

Tino Seghal, These Associations, Tate Modern, Unilever Series Commission, 2012

It was a clever curatorial companion piece to the The Tanks, the subterranean concrete spaces that have hosted fifteen weeks of film, video and performance art. They were opened up as part of the ongoing building project to expand Tate and I think will be open again permanently later in the year. We didn’t spend hours in here – video art has never been the easiest thing to sell to my husband and I have a fairly low threshold myself so it’s not the best viewing combination, but the Lis Rhodes work we both liked. Light Music is the artist’s attempt to address the lack of attention given to women composers in European music. I certainly didn’t get that but I enjoyed the immersive, performative elements of dancing in front of the flickering celluloid projectors and being able to enact your own enormous shadow show.

Lis Rhodes, Light Music, 1975. Re-installed, Tate Tanks, 2012.

 

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