Standing in the middle of the Nahmah Projects, performance artist Tomàs Diafas invites people to whisper in his ear with one word to answer the question “What do you want to change in your life?” Once the wish is confessed, it’s screamed by the performer. I am NOT tino sehgal comprises of 30 unique performance pieces through a month-long project presenting the original scripts of 30 young artists, inspired by the work of prolific German artist Tino Sehgal who is known for his constructed situations and choreographed dances within museums. Diafas screaming in his performance titled Everything I Scream Becomes Reality fits the agenda.
Gallery owner Joseph Nahmad created the project space with the aim of bringing a “radical edge” to London’s pre-existing artistic landscape. Nahmad’s insistence on the radical makes an exhibition conceived around Sehgal an obvious choice. Sehgal’s work has been long criticized as stunts and meticulously crafted practical jokes. Directed by curator Francesco Bonami, the performance experiment aims to test the limits of contemporary practices.
The concept began to materialize when the curator set forth a call for artists, prompting the response of over 200 applicants, from which the final 30 were eventually chosen. Representing a wide geographic diversity, the artists’ performances challenge notions of ownership, physicality, economics, and privacy, expanding upon the topics explored by Sehgal.
Artist Rose Cleary draws from her own experiences working as a gallery assistant at the Tate Modern during Sehgal’s 2012 performance, These Associations. As part of the museum’s staff, Cleary explains how the “information we could give regarding artworks and exhibitions was pre-packaged by the Tate, restricted to avoid controversy or libel.” For her performance titled Unilever, Cleary wears her Visitor Experience Assistant uniform, appropriating her previous position as a Tate staff member. Cleary engages with visitors providing alternative information about the art, “convey[ing] an underlying criticism of arts institutions, the selective nature of ‘accessible’ art.”
Irony aside, the performances reflect the collective desires of artists and curators to challenge the institutions from the inside, expanding the boundaries under which they are able to create. Freedom remains an essential component, not only for Sehgal and the artists, but for Bonami as well. He says, “The concept of I am NOT tino sehgal in a gallery with a name associated with the market could be a very interesting exercise. To see if experiments are still allowed in today’s art world and artistic production.”
I am NOT tino sehgal transforms the process of interpretation into an art form of it’s own right. In line with the work of the exhibition’s namesake, I am NOT tino sehgal presents pieces defined by the ephemeral, manifesting themselves, vis-à-vis interactions with the audience, even if this means intentionally ignoring them. As explained by Lauren Collins of The New Yorker, “Sehgal’s art resides in the second person. You choose your own adventure.”
I am NOT tino sehgal runs from June 9th through July 20th at Nahmad Projects.