No Media

Sigmund Freud had an interesting take on nightmares. He argued that not only were all dreams exercises in wish fulfillment, but that even nightmares showed us our reverse. Such a principle can be applied to looking at any number of creative gestures that approach meaning through forms and concepts presented in reverse or even in absentia. Through this lens, we might see artist Tino Sehgal's work as teaching us a lot about media by virtue of his employing what looks like no medium. The Wattis Institute at the California College of the Arts (CCA) is now entering its second year of continuously presenting Sehgal's situational projects. In each, there is no physical object at which to gaze, but rather a human actor, instructed to enact an interpretation (of a newspaper headline, a press release about a concurrent show, etc), to sing, or to initiate an interaction with a gallery visitor. The Wattis's two-year presentation of Sehgal's work--simultaneous with other shows, thus directly contextualizing it in relation to institutional and spectatorial conventions--is a rare demonstration of commitment to studying a complicated and visionary artist's singular work. In this, it is apparent that the artist's relationship to media is a very specific one. He wants the experiences he creates to be seen as objects that can be bought and sold (albeit without printed receipts, instructions, photos, or other documentation), but their lack of physicality is at least partly a response to the earth's dwindling resources, and his primary medium is thus conversation--whether it's an initial one in the gallery or the oral narrative that perpetuates and historicizes his practice outside of the gallery. The translations and exchanges he programs are thus given a material weight by virtue of their ability to influence (as if by pushing on) others. - Marisa Olson

Image: Marisa Olson, GIS for Tino Sehgal, 2008 (Editor's Note: Tino Sehgal does not permit documentation of his work. Thus, for the above, Marisa took a screengrab of a blank image that appeared after conducting a Google image search for Tino Sehgal.)