Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Today in my art criticism class we tried to define progress.

My definition was a little unconventional. I proposed that rather than defining what progress is, it is much easier (and creates a clearer picture) to define what it is not. Think of a silhouette. It gives us a clear outline, a stark contrast, and thereby a vivid picture or definition of what we're seeing.

Progress is not a plateau, flat, or static
It is not boring mundane or tired
It's not always loud or exciting
But it's also not always quiet or unnoticed
It's not descending or declining
But it's not stationary either
It's not unnecessary or without effort
Progress is not one thing, this thing or that thing

The question that struck me as we were discussing is: can you have progress without goals?

It turned my thoughts to an exhibition by Tino Sehgal I read about in the New York Times a few weeks ago. It's called, "This Progress" and I want to fly to NYC right now and experience the exhibition for myself. I think I'll have to just do it vicariously through writers and critics (and possibly my uncle if I can get him to go and report to me). Holland Cotter, a New York Times critic described his experience like this:
It begins when you walk a short way up the rotunda ramp. A child comes over to greet you. My greeter, a girl of 9 or 10, introduced herself as Giuliana and stated matter-of-factly, “This is a piece by Tino Sehgal.” She invited me to follow her and asked if she could ask me a question. “What is progress?” I gave a broad answer, then at her request, a clarifying example. We went further up the ramp.
Soon we were joined by a young man, a teenager, who said his name was Will. Giuliana carefully and accurately paraphrased for him my response to her question and slipped away. I walked on with Will, who commented on my comments on progress, which prompted me to try to refine my initial thoughts.
About halfway up the rotunda, Will was replaced by Tom, whom I took to be in his mid-30s and who introduced a new topic.
And it goes on like this until you get to the top of the ramp. Sehgal's work consists of highly conceptual, deep conversations. I think it's fascinating. I want to know what sort of outcomes I would have in my own thoughts.

What is progress?

1 comment:

Sarah Orme said...

look at the root, pro. Pro means forward or forth, so i suppose progress is going forth. I used to think it was always a positive and challenging thing, but maybe it's just going forward.

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