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Ministry of Information

Mary Taylor

Mary Taylor makes things happen and watches people in New York City and Budapest. Founding member of the Open University and of Think Tank X, artist and situation-maker, she teaches anthropology at Hunter College and Cooper Union in New York.

Ministry of Information] vol.16



Aesthetic art promises a political accomplishment that it cannot
satisfy, and thrives on that ambiguity. That is why those who want
to isolate it from politics are somewhat beside the point. It is also
why those who want to fulfill its political promise are condemned
to a certain melancholy
Jacques Ranciere
The Aesthetic Revolution

Of kissing and great art

In the midst of a fever I rushed to the Guggenheim for my last chance at experiencing Tino Sehgal's The Kiss. 35 years old and Tino's got the Guggenheim allowing him to have an interactional piece that has not one material remainder. I don't know: there are maybe 50 "actors" in this piece and the large part of what they do and say is unscripted, or, at least, loosely scripted.

First, there's the kiss.  Two dancers, who at first sight seem to be random museum-goers, are engaged in a lengthy kiss when you walk into the foyer. It was only maybe minute into it that I began to notice the tempo and the deliberateness of this passionate display. Standing, crouching, laying, rolling, the kissers serve 3 hours at a time. This choreography is so carefully carefree. It made me want to kiss too.

Then we start trudging up the spiral, to be met by kids! Prompted by a "grown up", one approaches you, asking you what you think Progress is. They are maybe 7-13 years old? Mine was one of the older ones. He had to tell the next guy-a generation up from him- what we had been talking about. If only I could remember the "ization" that he "privatization of water in Bolivia" into. Beautiful.  

And there was Tino, hanging out, perhaps fine-tuning, as we "progressed" to the summit of Frank Lloyd Wright's spiral. Spit out into a gallery at the top, the cubist paintings that surrounded me seemed trite, cartoonish.  It was then that we compared notes and confirmed how different our experiences had been.  Walking back down against the flow of (pilgrims making their) progress, stopping in to see the Malevich paintings, even that dwarfed by Tino's show, we paused for a long while to watch the kissers from above, wondering what Tino would have done if we had also begun to meet the visitors at the hand off points and start conversations with them.  We didn't see any volunteer kisses, odd perhaps, but watched a security guard chase away some people who had decided to sit right next to the kisser, and then, under orders from someone else, try to get them to return to whence he had chased hem.

"Something's changing in the art world", said my friend Katja, who lives from her art, as we walked out into the spring air at twilight.  I wondered what, exactly. Was it that Tino had become famous enough to have this incredible experience made in the Guggenheim despite his project-his forbiddance of representations of his work, his insistence on traveling with methods of minimal carbon footprint, the ephemerality and quotidian quality of this work? Or was it because of it? What does it mean that Tino Sehgal has become a star when so many quotidian and framed acts of similar form and substance, as clever in quality, as sublime in aesthetic apprehension as his are disregarded, unfunded, not even considered art?

This is not a critique of Tino, by the way. I'm really happy to have seen the show and happy for him that it happened. I'm happy for all the people who experienced it too.  Here I just want to meditate on the production of that boundary between art and life. Or -dare I?-between art and revolution.


Mary Taylor