Tino Sehgal

Using movement AND the voice. The two components responding to each other. Voice dictating movement, or movement dictating voice?

Bodies moved, prodded, pushed along by the voice.

Having to be connected with each other. Having to move with each other - even if they are not doing the same movements.

You don’t know who the choreographer had intended to perform and who had joined in from the audience.

Nature of performance gentle, peaceful, regular pace, easy for anyone to join in.

Basic and free structure which would be almost impossible to make ‘mistakes’ within.

The group taking control of the movement. Different members leading at different points.

People cluster - then other people follow this cluster. People like having a leader.

Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam 2015

  • Constant state of waking up . Half awake, half asleep.

  • Moving so gradually across the space that the audience can’t realise that it is happening.

  • Seems to be responding to herself - seeing the movement of her own body parts - acting almost surprised by these movements.

  • Relaxation but also tension and frustration - audience is unable to tell which one performer is feeling.

  • Positions are understated but would also be requiring a considerable amount of body control.

  • Finding ways to walk whilst lying down.

  • Curling into oneself and then stretching out. Introverted and extraverted, acute and obtuse.

  • Moving around but not straying very far from the corner. Almost like she has been allocated an area and she has to work within and around this area.

  • Holding her own body-parts in two hands.

  • One body part leading, the rest of the body hanging or being dragged.

  • Normal clothes - own clothes - jeans - neutrality.


  • Always touching - never actually kissing.

  • Both of the participants in this semi-conscious state.

  • Rolling over each other across the space. Constantly swapping between being/lying on the top and lying on the bottom of the other person.

  • Supporting each other as they go over and under each other. Holding each other’s weight so that no body-part can ever drop suddenly to the ground.

  • Pushing the limits of physical intimacy in a public space. Executed with such confidence that you cannot question it.

  • Attempting to fit into one another’s gaps.

  • The consistent anticipation of something more happening. And the constant relief/disappointment of more NEVER happening.

  • Half feeling like you have walked in on something you shouldn’t and half feeling like you are meant to be there.

  • Movement of one facilitating the movement of the other.

Sehgal is an essential point of reference for me mainly because of the way he manages to blur the lines between audience and participant so inconspicuously. We don’t know who is who (who is participant, who is performer, who has joined in from the audience) and it doesn’t matter. In fact, it could be argued that it is quite important that we don’t know - so that we feel like we ourselves can join in. This area of unknown is what may give us (the audience, the supposed ‘outsiders’ the courage to partake : if we don’t know ourselves, then it is highly likely that the rest of the audience don’t know either. If it looks like we could blend in easily, that we could easily fit the criteria of the performance, then why shouldn’t be perform as well? I would argue that in this context the ambiguity is what arouses confidence in passers by - whereas it would usually cause confusion and in turn, hesitance.

The participants/ performers who Sehgal employs approach the activities with such conviction, such purpose, that it cannot be mocked or questioned. So it doesn’t matter where they are, where the performance is taking place, it always seems as though that is where they are meant to be. Wherever they are performing is deemed as their rightful stage, they take the space and they conduct it, they immediately take ownership of the space as soon as they begin to perform.

Watching Sehgal’s work, I have really come to appreciate how the performances demonstrate a kind of snowball effect - participants join in gradually, gaining confidence as they go, gaining pace. And the more people that are present, the more likely people are to join in, so the increase in participants tends to happen as a crescendo. That is not to say that the audience always feel the need to get involved - some pieces, particularly the ones exhibiting quite high levels of intimacy. I like that all the performances that Sehgal directs have the potential to involve a large number of people, to gain people, but this is not integral to their execution. Some just exist with, and some just exist without active participation from the audience. And whatever the fate of the performance is of course determined by the environment in which they are performed in.

Sehgal plays with a very specific combination of elements to create the conditions to make people feel like they can join in, these elements are experimented with throughout his performances to test for the perfect balance. This balance could probably never actually be established, or at least, this balance must change each time a performance takes place, each time the circumstances and aspects of the surroundings adjust. I think that the factors that Sehgal is taking into consideration, and the factors that I should be taking into consideration too, are the level of difficulty, the amount of space available to perform within, the amount of people already performing, the level of ability of the performers partaking. How can I ensure that others feel welcomed into my own activities? Which separate components, in combination with each other, will work to get individuals involved in a public space? I need to think specifically which factors of the environment and the individuals I am involving will affect the final event. I know I can’t have total control, but thinking about these kinds of things will help me to achieve at least a small amount of authority.

The majority of the performances that Sehgal conducts are normalised, neutralised by the choices of clothing - everyone seems to be wearing something that they whacked on in the morning, there is no apparent consistency within the outfits apart from a seemed freedom of choice. This is another element which I think makes the public feel more in tune with the performers, they can not be intimidated any kind of uniform which would work to separate performer and viewer.

Each performance is unique, even when the same routine is being performed by a different individual, because Sehgal seems to work to test the physical strength of the individual - how much they are physically challenged is specific to the person. This is important because it displays to us individual potential, it shows us what each performer is capable of and happy displaying to an audience.

The performances are not dependent on open participation, there are chosen participants filling exact and choreographed roles. However, in my opinion these participants are acting mainly as catalysts for participation (audience). Their job is to provoke and entice, without actively requesting participation.