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Performing Spacing. Tino Sehgal's performing bodies at the Palais de Tokyo, Paris

Listed author(s):
  • Jean-Luc Moriceau


    (DEFIS - Droit, Economie, Finances et Sociologie - TEM - Télécom Ecole de Management - Institut Mines-Télécom [Paris])

  • Yannick Fronda


    (DEFIS - Droit, Economie, Finances et Sociologie - TEM - Télécom Ecole de Management - Institut Mines-Télécom [Paris])

  • Eila Szendy-El Kurdi


    (DEFIS - Droit, Economie, Finances et Sociologie - TEM - Télécom Ecole de Management - Institut Mines-Télécom [Paris], LED - Laboratoire d'Economie Dionysien - UP8 - Université Paris 8, Vincennes-Saint-Denis)

Registered author(s):

    Tino Sehgal receives carte blanche to work in the immense space of the Palais de Tokyo, a leading public contemporary art museum in Paris. It does not put any painting, sculpture or installation, but only moving bodies. These bodies, at the beginning indiscernible from spectators, enter into choreographies or interactions. They make a performance, and all this is performing, i.e. has an effect on the participants. Something moves in the sharing and the constitution of space, in the work / viewer bonds, in us who observe and experience. The artist affirms that what is thus performed is political. 1/ A set of performers start to move in the basement space of the Palais de Tokyo sometimes running, sometimes walking. Sometimes these bodies stop and sing words in chorus. Here they are running on the stairs. Their eyes meet our own. With one and the other, a smile. They breathe a thank you when I make room for them to climb a few steps, following what I guess being a trajectory, a line, a displacement. I feel sympathy to their effort, the exercise seems difficult, singular. I start to feel being one of them. They resemble a fish bench, an organic form that moves with accelerations and changes in direction. They seem to follow a "logic", a movement of their own of which we perceive a hidden code, not yet deciphered, or yet to be deciphered. Fascination! My body is caught in this machine, touches these movements and takes me into an aesthetic (body and feeling) experience. " Spacing ". Beyes & Steyaert (2011) calls spacing this material, embodied, affective and minor (re-)configuration of space, as a way to bring back space into critical organization theory. I can feel here this spacing, this generative production of space by bodies in motion, in their sometimes organized sometimes disorganized mundane movements. The naked space produces effects, impression, sense, thanks to the distribution of bodies whose face, cloth, shape matter far less than their geographical positions and gesture in relation to the others. We do not have bodies within space, we have bodies constituting an organizational spacing. 2/ Dialogue with performers. Plannings are to be met. You need to show your neverending commitment and enthousiasm in order to be chosen. The performance was set in London by Tino Sehgal, then passed on from professional to non-professional performers (are the latters paid, probably not, recognized or building self-recognition in taking part to the performances?). During the performances, some freedom are allowed - however some participants may intervene, arguing that ‘it should not that way', and in an authoritative manner affirm that ‘Tino would not appreciate' (an unconstestable argument). A performance is not a representation. It is not through the effectuation of the right movements at the right place and time that spacing happens, but because something actually happens in the here and now. Much is prepared and rehearsed, but the mere representation would probably fail to produce the effect. Spacing is performative because it is performed, and not merely exhibited or represented. For Beyes and Stayaert you need a non-representational theory to account for this performativity. With non-representational theory, practices are pre-individual, they are not to be tied to human subjects but stabilized, material-relational bundles of ‘all manners of resources'. The human body is seen as an outcome of and the setting for a play of connections and forces, a ‘volatile combination of flesh, fluids, organs, skeletal structure and dreams, desires, ideas, social conventions and habits' (Latham et al., 2009: 108). Tino Sehgal may be playing with such pre-individual practices, playing with arrangement of flesh and social conventions. And such a performativity explores difference, otherness and novelty, and as such is indeed political. 3/ But how to account for such a performativity, for these intangible and non-narratable spacings? One needs to connect to one's own pre-individual practices, one's flesh and imaginary, feel the political inside, and then to try and express it. For Beyes and Steyaert, research has to be a performance. Research needs to experiment with the aesthetics and embodiment of research itself. And to provide a non-representational theory from this exploration. The aim of this communication is to experiment the "spacing" proposition of Beyes and Stayeart on the case of Tino Sehgal's exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo, try to produce a non-representational theory/account of this experiment end reflect back on their proposition following this experience. We'll use the turn to affect to inquire on an aesthetical experience (Moriceau, 2016). Main sources will be affectivity and reflexivity on aesthetical experiences as well as interviews of performers.

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    Paper provided by HAL in its series Post-Print with number hal-01570964.

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    Date of creation: 10 Jul 2017
    Publication status: Published in SCOS 2017 : 35th Standing Conference on Organizational Symbolism. "Carne - Flesh and organization", Jul 2017, Rome, Italy. SCOS 2017 : 35th Standing Conference on Organizational Symbolism. "Carne - Flesh and organization"
    Handle: RePEc:hal:journl:hal-01570964
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