What's Progress Mean?

Modern art usually pushes the bounds of what is in the next step of society. Warhol, O’Keefe, and Picasso all pushed the boundaries of art in their time. A good place to find our culture’s next generation of art is in New York’s Guggenheim Museum.

A conceptual artist, Tino Sehgal is currently “showing” his work entitled “This Progress”. I discovered the work this weekend while listening to Studio 360 on NPR. There are no canvases in Sehgals work. There are no paint strokes or molded clay. As visitors to the museum enter the exhibit, which is simply the entire space of the museum, they are met by a child. The child, no more than 12 years old, asks the visitor if they would like to participate in the art. When someone responds, “yes,” the child then asks, “What is progress?”

You’ll have to listen to the recording on Studio 360 to hear some of the interesting answered provided by guests. The exhibition continues as the child brings the visitor to a teenager and repeats, as best he or she can, the answer provided by visitor. The visitor continues this same journey with the teenager, then a young adult. Finally they are brought to a senior citizen – with the same question in the air “What is progress?”

Personally, I consider myself a fan of tangible art – if only because I haven’t thought of another kind of art. But the idea of providing this artistic experience to museum visitors is fascinating and, at least, conceptually, quite provocative. There is no wrong answer from what I can tell. The experience is in no way recorded, digitally or through written transcript. But I have no doubt that the thorough challenge of addressing, “What is progress?” through the interpretation of four strangers of varying generations will alter the how the conversation unfolds.

So what is progress to you? What does it mean? How does it effect you?