Category: Conceptual Art

Martin Beck
An Organized System of Instructions

Edited by James Voorhies
Contributions by Martin Beck, Keller Easterling, James Goggin, Alex Kitnick, James Voorhies

Martin Beck’s exhibition “Program” at the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts comprised a sequence of interventions, installations, events, and displays that drew on the exhibition histories and academic pursuits of the famed 1963 Le Corbusier building at Harvard University. The sequence of explorative strategies—each node of which Beck considered an “episode”—lent particular attention to the founding aspirations of the Carpenter Center, which sought to cultivate its position as simultaneously an iconic modernist building, school, and exhibition venue. Beck performed and critically reflected on the kinds of activity an institution uses to build, organize, and engage with its audiences, and, in the case of the Carpenter Center, how it performed a kind of exhibition of education in both its pedagogical framework and its public outreach. From its physical infrastructure to its communication strategies, from its foundational curricular principles to visitor tallies, from building usage to welcome rituals, “Program,” which transpired over two years, examined institutional behaviors that collectively form institutional identity and integrate audiences into a cohesive program of public address.

This book, An Organized System of Instructions, is both a document of “Program” and an extension of the exhibition, which ran from October 24, 2014, to October 2016.

Copublished with Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts
Design by James Goggin, Practise

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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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On The Museum’s Ruins
by Douglas Crimp (photographs by Louise Lawler)

On the Museum’s Ruins presents Douglas Crimp’s criticism of contemporary art, its institutions, and its politics alongside photographic works by the artist Louise Lawler to create a collaborative project that is itself an example of postmodern practice at its most provocative. Crimp elaborates the new paradigm of postmodernism through analyses of art practices broadly conceived, not only the practices of artists—Robert Rauschenberg, Cindy Sherman, Marcel Broodthaers, Richard Serra, Sherrie Levine, and Robert Mapplethorpe—but those of critics and curators, of international exhibitions, and of new or refurbished museums such as the Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart and the Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin.

The essays:

– Photographs at the End of Modernism.
– On the Museum’s Ruins.
– The Museum’s Old, the Library’s New Subject.
– The End of Painting.
– The Photographic Activity of Postmodernism.
– Appropriating Appropriation.
– Redefining Site Specificity.
– This is Not a Museum of Art.
– The Art of Exhibition.
– The Postmodern Museum.

About the Author
Douglas Crimp is Fanny Knapp Allen Professor of Art History at the University of Rochester. He is the author of On the Museum’s Ruins and Melancholia and Moralism: Essays on AIDS and Queer Politics, both published by the MIT Press.

Reviews
“Literate and provocative speculations about art, photography, postmodernism, homoeroticism, Rauchenberg and Mapplethorpe, museums and libraries.”

Endorsements
“Crimp’s essays comprise one of the most interesting and incisive bodies of work on practices of contemporary art in relationships to art as institution.”
—Andreas Huyssen, Columbia University

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Franz Erhard Walther
First Work Set

Comprising 58 fabric elements – what the artist has termed ‘instruments for process’ – this multi-part sculpture, began in 1963 in Düsseldorf and was completed in 1969 in New York City, is Walther’s most ambitious work.

This publication retraces Walther’s use of malleable materials and ephemeral ‘actions’ as the basis for his sculptures, his understanding of the role of language, and the presence of drawing as integral to his conception of space. As with Walther’s similar works, First Work Set’s individual fabric elements are activated by visitors in a series of quotidian actions such as folding, dropping, leaning and measuring, that often entail cooperation among a couple or a group.

For decades, museum exhibitions of this work have placed folded archival versions of the fabric elements in vitrines, preventing viewers from receiving the direct, performative encounter originally intended by the artist.

For this exhibition at Dia:Beacon, Dia worked collaboratively with Walther to select a number of the original fabric elements available to be directly handled and performed by visitors. During the exhibition, Dia held an event inviting leading scholars to take advantage of the opportunity to experience the work firsthand in this way, and to present new thinking on his oeuvre.

This book is a unique project grown out of the inclusion of this major work in Dia’s collection in the exhibition Franz Erhard Walther: Work as Action, presented at Dia:Beacon, New York, 2 October 2010 – 15 February 2012.

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