Tate Modern

Tino Sehgal’s These Associations, at the UK’s Tate Modern, is nearing the end of its run as the feature exhibit of the Unilever Series. The Anglo-German’s exhibit is the first live piece to grace the vast Turbine Hall that immediately welcomes visitors to the gallery.

The exhibit lives up to the connotations of movement provided by the area it inhabits. A series of choreographed performances make up the literal body of the work as a number of volunteer performers greet viewers with a swathe of movement, noise and conversation. 

The beauty of the work lies in the reflection showcased; a viewer sees normally dressed people from varying creeds and backgrounds. At softer points of the performance it sometimes difficult to distinguish curious spectators from those actually involved. 

One particular scene involves participants slowly walking from the rear of the darkened Turbine Hall to its entrance whilst the light increases with each step. It is perhaps a not particularly subtle metaphor for human progress. Taken alone, this would be unremarkable; however, Sehgal’s work is a great collage of imagery.


The path of human progress is retraced and the lights dim once more. The performers gather in a swirling circle and scatter themselves like seeds in the wind. With the light particularly low, the human shapes are barely visible and out of the blackness comes a haunting chanting that resembles a wordless hymn of sorrow. This is interspersed with heavy and soft chants and the occasional cry of “humans, humans, nature.” The lights flash briefly and a moody, storm-like atmosphere pervades the hall. The melodic wails emanate across the giant room and reverberate off the walls. It feels like a final requiem to humanity that is impossible to avoid. 

These Associations is a powerfully accepting work that flourishes on the commonality of the people involved: you and I. The clear dynamism makes refreshing use of the cavernous Turbine Hall and pays homage to the Tate’s past life as Bankside Power Station. Sehgal provides a window into the human spirit that sometimes catches the light and reflects the viewer back upon themselves.

These Associations runs from 24 July – 28 October 2012 at the Tate Modern

James Dixon

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