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(https://walkerart.org/collections/publications/performativity/be-the-work/)

Much has been written about Sehgal’s rigid strictures against any and all forms of documentation, including written agreements or certificates of authenticity, photographs, videos, sound recordings, scripts, transcriptions, wall labels, catalogues, and even press releases. What could possibly be the reasoning behind this embargo? Again, the artist stays true to his mandate that no material transformation (from tree to paper) or consumption of natural resources take place in the production of the work and concomitant exhibition. In addition, he makes intrinsic to his process the disposition of stopgap measures in order to prevent ephemera related to his work from accruing monetary value. He points to the Fluxus movement as an example to make this point regarding the feeding frenzy that has occurred among collectors of primary documents, of which the Walker Art Center in this case is unapologetically “guilty.” According to the artist, “Experience with movements like Fluxus shows that documentation can easily become a kind of sacred relic, and that it is impossible to control this process. Fluxus actions and happenings were aimed at the single, ephemeral, auratic moment of their realization. … Therefore, they were dependent on documentation in the end. My work, on the contrary, has the possibility built into it that it can be shown again and again, even in 30 or 200 years. Therefore, this question of documentation is less virulent.”

Michel Guthier has provided still another accounting for what he calls Sehgal’s “grapho- and icono-phobic protocol”:
“It marks the extension of the artwork’s mode of existence to the mechanism of its socialization. Because the piece is performative by definition, so are the modalities of its transmission, in both the aesthetic and business meanings of the word. Sehgal is rooted in a time in the history of art when the artist can no longer ignore the fact that an artwork can never be presented in society in the form of a naked and autonomous realization. It is surrounded by a mechanism to complete and protect it by forcing upon the pubic, if not an instruction manual and an interpretation, at least some kind of approach. Thus Sehgal does not want documentation that is peripheral to the work to rob it of its performative character.”

Sehgal provides us with a given—that nothing ancillary will exist that can be bought and sold, and for as long as the artist is alive, the essential work will be passed down from the artist (and the artist’s chosen representatives) to generations of curators and collectors. In the short history of the art world, this in itself is radical; but when put in the context of human history, it is a mere blip—we have bequeathed histories, genealogies, laws, prayers, memories, and rituals to our descendants, not to mention stories, dances, poems, and plays, since we have had the powers of speech. Sehgal, too, is positioning us to inherit his fortune of well-wrought ideas and actions via training, cognition, and memory. Memory is the only true recourse to documentation through the oral recounting of experience; for example, the rules of the game that brought about the actual events. Group memorization thus becomes the standard mode of “conservation” of the work—one that insures its preservation, perpetuation, and authenticity.

Be The Work Intersubjectivity In Tino...

Added by André Fincato
Updated 9 months ago

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