Michael Asher

Beyond Objecthood : The Exhibition as a Critical Form since 1968
by James Voorhies

In 1968, Robert Smithson reacted to Michael Fried’s influential essay “Art and Objecthood” with a series of works called non-sites. While Fried described the spectator’s connection with a work of art as a momentary visual engagement, Smithson’s non-sites asked spectators to do something more: to take time looking, walking, seeing, reading, and thinking about the combination of objects, images, and texts installed in a gallery. In Beyond Objecthood, James Voorhies traces a genealogy of spectatorship through the rise of the exhibition as a critical form — and artistic medium. Artists like Smithson, Group Material, and Michael Asher sought to reconfigure and expand the exhibition and the museum into something more active, open, and democratic, by inviting spectators into new and unexpected encounters with works of art and institutions. This practice was sharply critical of the ingrained characteristics long associated with art institutions and conventional exhibition-making; and yet, Voorhies finds, over time the critique has been diluted by efforts of the very institutions that now gravitate to the “participatory.” Beyond Objecthood focuses on innovative figures, artworks, and institutions that pioneered the exhibition as a critical form, tracing its evolution through the activities of curator Harald Szeemann, relational art, and New Institutionalism. Voorhies examines recent artistic and curatorial work by Liam Gillick, Thomas Hirschhorn, Carsten Holler, Maria Lind, Apolonija Sustersic, and others, at such institutions as Documenta, e-flux, Manifesta, and Office for Contemporary Art Norway, and he considers the continued potential of the exhibition as a critical form in a time when the differences between art and entertainment increasingly blur.

James Voorhies is a curator and art historian of modern and contemporary art. He is Dean of Fine Arts and Associate Professor at California College of the Arts in San Francisco.

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F.R. David
Spring 2017 : Inverted Commas

 

F.R.DAVID is a typographical journal, edited by Will Holder, dealing with the organisation of reading and writing in contemporary art practises. This 13th issue of F.R.DAVID is edited with Riet Wijnen, and has its origins in her Registry of Pseudonyms, an online database which accounts for who is who and why who is who. ‘Inverted Commas’ follows ‘pseudonym’ through names, naming, bodies, brains, self, author, other, reader, labour.

Includes: Michael Asher, Joan Didion, Harun Farocki, Sven Lütticken, Lucy Lippard, Barbara Guest, A.H. Nijhoff, Will Holder, Pauline Oliveros, and many more.

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Tacet 3
Sound in The Arts : From Sound Space

‘Tacet’ is a research publication dedicated to sound arts and experimental music. Its ambition is to create a interdisciplinary and international space of reflection for these practices, in all its aesthetic diversity. With contributions by Michael Asher, Maryanne Amacher, Paul Panhuysen, Douglas Kahn and many more.

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Tacet 3
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AsherSA-cover

Situation Aesthetics: The Work of Michael Asher
by Kirsi Peltomaki


Michael Asher doesn’t make typical installations. Instead, he extracts his art from the institutions in which it is shown, culling it from collections, histories, or museums’ own walls. Since the late 1960s, Asher has been creating situations that have not only taught us about the conditions and contexts of contemporary art, but have worked to define it. In Situation Aesthetics, Kirsi Peltomaki examines Asher’s practice by analyzing the social situations that the artist constructs in his work for viewers, participants, and institutional representatives (including gallery directors, curators, and other museum staff members). Drawing on art criticism, the reports of viewers and participants in Asher’s projects, and the artist’s own archives, Peltomaki offers a comprehensive account of Asher’s work over the past four decades. Because of the intensely site-specific nature of this work, as well as the artist’s refusal to reconstruct past works or mount retrospectives, many of the projects Peltomaki discusses are described here for the first time. By emphasizing the social and psychological sites of art rather than the production of autonomous art objects, Peltomaki argues, Asher constructs experientially complex situations that profoundly affect those who encounter them, bringing about both personal and institutional transformation.

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