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Shaking the Establishment

Tino Sehgal at the Palais Garnier

By Aliénor de Foucaud 07 October 2016

© Asad Raza

Shaking the Establishment

Winner of the Golden Lion at the 55th Biannual Festival of Contemporary Art in Venice, Tino Sehgal has established himself as a major figure on the contemporary artistic scene. Invited to the Paris Opera for a new work with the dancers of the Corps de Ballet, he occupies the auditorium and the public spaces of the Palais Garnier in order to question more effectively the modalities of dance.

Abandoning classical arabesques in favour of freer choreographic forms is an unfamiliar exercise that the dancers of the Opera have achieved with “a lot of commitment” says Sehgal with enthusiasm. He exchanged ideas with them before beginning rehearsals and applauds them today for their professionalism.

Artist and choreographer Tino Sehgal likes to remember his initial training as a dancer. Born in 1976 in England to a father of Indian origin and a German mother and brought up on both sides of the Rhine, Tino Sehgal studied both Economics and Dance and soon performed for the French choreographer, Jérôme Bel, and the Ballets C de la B. He then developed what he qualified as “constructed situations” in which it is not a question of performance but of choreography interpreted and executed in a museum or art gallery.

What constitutes a work of art? What is crystallised by the experience of art? These are the questions raised by this artist-choreographer whose exploration of the relationship between dancer and audience loosens up temporality and provides a more fluid sense of movement.

Invited to create a piece for the Paris Opera, Tino Sehgal approached the Palais Garnier as a “museum of dance” and re-situated the viewpoint of the spectator. “I’m interested in the different possibilities that choreography can offer in a museum,” he says. In mapping out the itinerary for the evening, he invited audiences to wander individually through the opera house, exploring four public areas before assembling in the auditorium. To conclude the evening, he offers a final creation in the main theatre and brings his dancers down off the stage in a desire to bring dance “closer” so people can feel “the vibration of the dancer” and get beyond the merely visual through the experience of this proximity. The spectator is thus seen as part of the work, and the stage, which he perceives as “too collective and rigid”, is no longer the only focus.

Tino Sehgal en répétition avec les danseurs du Ballet de l’Opéra
Tino Sehgal en répétition avec les danseurs du Ballet de l’Opéra © Julien Benhamou / OnP

His choreography makes total sense through this immediacy. Indeed, Tino Sehgal has chosen not to give his new piece a title: “Do I want to give meaning to all that? It already speaks for itself, no need to give it additional meaning with a title”.

Ephemeral by definition, Tino Sehgal’s dance does have a more perennial aspect through the use of repetition. His most emblematic work, Kiss (2002) required a couple to reinterpret famous embraces from great works of Art: in a minutely choreographed, eight-minute repeated sequence, the dancers passed seamlessly from one position to another, then reversed their roles. Invited to the Guggenheim, the MOMA, the Pompidou Centre and the Palais de Tokyo, this artist has made his mark on the history of art.

Except for one detail… The acquisition of one of his works consists in a purely oral transaction between the artist and the directors of the museum. There are no written contracts at any point in the process and the performance conditions of his art works forbid all use of video, photography, printed press communiqués, catalogues, hand-outs and explanatory wall-displays: a beautiful response to the issues of experiencing art in situ and the living dialogue between visitor and artist, here and now.

Sehgal/Peck/Forsythe, from 26th September to 9th October, Opera Garneir
Tino Sehgal at the Palais Tokyo, carte blanche from 12th October to 18th December 2016    

Aliénor de Foucaud

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