Performativity and dissensus in the work of Tino Sehgal and Andrea Fraser

Broadey, Andrew orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-2916-0115 (2022) Performativity and dissensus in the work of Tino Sehgal and Andrea Fraser. In: The Avant-Garde: Aesthetic Strategies and Participatory Art. Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego/Jagiellonian University Press, Kraków/Krakow. (In Press)

[thumbnail of Author Accepted Manuscript] PDF (Author Accepted Manuscript) - Accepted Version
Restricted to Repository staff only
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.


Official URL:


This article critically engages with curator Dorothea Von Hantelmann’s How to Do Things With Art (2010), in which Von Hantelmann argues that the linguistic category of the performative offers insight into the operation of recent installations realised as events. Her text offers a critical framework for the performative turn in contemporary curatorial practice initiated by Angelika Nollert’s 2004 exhibition series Performative Installation, by arguing that practitioners such as Tino Sehgal invented new relations between conventions of display and reception. She refers to works such as Sehgal’s This Variation (2012-13) as “pure critique”, and claims that the defining characteristic of pure critique is that it is free from all forms of external determination. (Von Hantelmann 2010: 181) However, if Von Hantelmann’s thesis is read in the context of the autonomy function of the art exhibition, it becomes apparent that her argument founders upon an unexamined contradiction. To conceive of art practice as pure critique, and thus free from external determination, requires the determination of a zone of display and reception that is made separate from wider social relations by exhibitionary conventions – and yet practices such as Sehgal’s can be seen in fact to rupture the conventions that constitute the exhibition’s autonomy function, and lead, rather, to a conception of the exhibition, not only as a site of artistic display and reception, but also as a social institution. In this paper, to explore the notion of rupture, I apply Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s theory of the assemblage and Jacques Rancière’s work on dissensus to an analysis of both Tino Sehgal’s This Variation (2012-13) and Andrea Fraser’s Museum Highlights (2013).

Repository Staff Only: item control page