New York Times photograph of Tino Sehgal and friends by David Weightman.
THE TINO SEHGAL SHOW WITH STRANGER
by Adam Benedetto
The Tino Sehgal (he’s from Berlin) show I saw at the Guggenheim this week is one of the more transcendent pieces I have ever experienced and I believe I saw it exactly the right way.
The story begins the night before when my sister and I were at a bar discussing my budget. That was no fun but helpful in my preparations for my coming trip to Berlin. When Cara went to the bathroom I noticed some people laughing hysterically behind me.
“What’s so funny,” I inquired.
“Internet Porn,” they said.
And quickly we started exchanging our email addresses so we could send our favorite links to each other.
Then Cara came back from the bathroom and we discussed the budget some more.
The next morning the people from the night before and I exchanged links furiously. Lots of good ones, my favorite of course, you know, is Dancefloordale.com which they’d never seen before but loved.
Then as I was getting ready to go to the Guggenheim I thought I should bring a guest. Ms. Terra Macintosh said she’d meet me there. From here out we’ll call her “Potato” as Terra means ‘ground’ and a Macintosh is a variety of apple and so in French her name would mean “Apple of the Earth” and a “Pomme de Terre” is a “Potato.”
So I met Potato outside of the show and we went in. Immediately there we were presented with two people making out on the floor in slow motion which created an out-of-time space. I had read in the Times that they are trained dancers who make out in three hour sessions. These two were there the entire time we were.
We watched for a while and then began to walk up the rounding walk that climbs up the interior of the museum. We were greeted by an eight year old boy that quickly introduced himself by name and asked ours. He said, Can I ask you a question while we walk?
We said, “Yes.”
“What is progress?”
At this point I didn’t know what Terra would say. She had her answers and I had mine but she said, “It is something getting better… or maybe, worse.” She elaborated and I listened and then the eight year old introduced us to a teenager who he then paraphrased our answer to. It was interesting to see the kid explain our answer of what progress was.
From there we began walking again and the teenager asked us more about our answer and discussed contemporary issues. She was funny and interesting but we did most of the talking. Another teenager followed behind us and then jumped into the conversation and was very hostile and argumentative. She asked us why people used to be stared at like freak shows and asked if we stared at people who are different in the same way.” Finally she introduced us to an old man who spoke only of himself as he led us to the very top of the museum where there is a large white translucent space in the ceiling. He talked all about his efforts during the Civil Rights Movement and said that that was where Obama’s campaign first started—I thought that very odd, I’ve thought that very odd every time I’ve heard it. Maybe it relates to the first kid’s question. We spoke in depth about the nature of the Civil Rights Movement.
As a final question the old man asked us how we knew each other. “We met briefly in a bar and exchanged internet porn sites last night. Then I invited her here.” I said. He was bewildered.
From there Terra and I walked down the museum literally retracing our steps down as if we were revisiting a life we’d just lived. The space has no art, it’s just white so he only memory you have of the place itself is the space moving towards the white light and the people you meet along the way. The people you talk to seem to vanish as well and in that respect it reminded me of the Monument to the Jews who were Murdered During WWII in Berlin where people seem to appear and vanish in your line of sight.
And so we watched the people kissing at the bottom and Terra said, “Why do you think they have two people kissing down here? Do you think that that’s the one part of the human experience we can all relate to?”
“We have to I suppose or there won’t be any more of us.” I sd.
Terra and I went out for coffee and we told each other our life stories which seemed very appropriate. It was kind of an extension of the show in some respects and so I have been challenging everyone who is going to go see the show to find someone they don’t know to see it with; both for the fact that you don’t know how the conversations will run and it really added to the experience.
I meet so many people in this city it’s been a true blessing. Last night I met a carpenter from Belarus who just spent two weeks in Rio. He spoke on and on of how beautiful the kites were at sunset. He said, the strings came from shadows along the beach and up above the kites changed color with the light. His skill for remarking upon the poetic images of Rio were fantastic… but this is all another story now. He was another who introduced himself, asked questions, and has now disappeared.