10. Barton Sloane On Tino Sehgal At Guggenheim

What does one expect from the contemporary museum experience? A reflection of cultural values? A contradiction of cultural values? A Truth? A Lie? An Image? A Structure? A Situation?

Despite its title (connoting confidence, security, and stability) and its content (a series of conversations) Tino Sehgal’s This Progress leaves participants with far more questions than answers. As such, it contradicts typical museum fare (and even museum-ified institutional critique) which — in its obligation to educate and protect — generally impedes the visitor’s ability to engage outside the bounds of institutional prerogatives. But this is no average American museum show: this is Wright’s rotunda as project space — no didactics, no explanations, no advertisements, no hardware; the gallery walls stripped bare.

Visitors are confronted almost immediately by an unforeseen encounter, provoked by an intensive line of questioning, and thrust into an inordinate level of intimacy with complete strangers. What is fact, fiction, and scripted in these conversations is wholly indeterminable. What remains salient, however, is the tenuousness of trust involved in these encounters, and the distinct feeling of unease provoked by the persistent question of: is this for real?

Indeed, in encountering the piece’s “conclusion” at the ramp’s apex, one must address the fact that there is, quite literally, no more room to ‘progress,’ a confrontation with the disheartening realities of… well, reality. Embodying a microcosmic diagram of dialectical knowledge, one must descend from whence one came, forcing an observation of the concrete and highly stage-managed infrastructure of your — once poignant — experience. Progress begets Decadence; Daedalus begets Icarus.

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