Unreal Nature

May 18, 2017

Tear the Cover Off

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:44 am

… If you tear the cover off a book you get closer to the text. If you do the same to an art institution you are not left with any auratic content to play with. The philosophical difference is crucial here.

This is from ‘Michael Asher: Fenced, Unfenced, Refenced’ (2004) found in Liam Gillick: Proxemics: Selected Writings (1988-2006) edited by Lionel Bovier (2006:

… Entering the museum. Entering the gallery. Entering the art center. Each of these activities is a determined gesture that is a decision in life that prepares us for a particular experience that is different from entering a diner, laundry or Maserati.

… His work is not part of a series of conceptual strategies that nominate parts of the world as art, it is a series of exposures, unravellings and additions that reveal the implicated role of place and border as key sites that contribute to the accretions of meaning that surround the creation of artworks.

Asher’s criticality has always been activated within the day to day functioning of the art space. The more that institutional power floats free in a ‘branded’ non-space of values and auras, the less easy it is to have a real experience in the museum. The more agile the museum becomes in marketing and repossessing art within neo-corporate image-making, the more Asher’s work resists the anecdotal processes that appear to be essential for the transfer of art within the broader social context. The work is immediate and specific without being pious or fundamental.

[line break added] Like the way war has been covered or been allowed to be covered since Vietnam, institutional spaces have wised up and either absorbed classical institutional critique within their own operative systems or refused to allow themselves to be opened up for scrutiny. If an artist engages or refuses to engage, the level of skepticism expressed is no longer exposed as a critical activity but embraced as another event or spectacle.

… By unfolding and delaminating the spaces for art activity, Asher simultaneously diminishes the persona and constructed role of the artist within society. His skepticism is turned not only to the spaces for art but also to the space men and women of art. This is its enduring strength and its biggest challenge to the validation models of contemporary practice.

In the end Michael Asher’s great achievement has been to depopulate the spaces of art without leaving anyone behind, so we all stand alongside him as absent presences witnessing the unravelling of power. Instead of offering us a corrupted and simple-minded exposition of the potential democratization of the art space, he abandons us within a sequence of demonstrations that involve both the withering of the place and the placed.

[line break added] The space is not fixed or resolved by his contributions, nor is the visitor made to feel better through a sense of self-aware critique. If you tear the cover off a book you get closer to the text. If you do the same to an art institution you are not left with any auratic content to play with. The philosophical difference is crucial here. The artwork is indistinguishable from the processes of deconstruction or reconstruction yet it is not a mere procedure or an extension of psychological states.

[line break added] It is an obdurate restatement of facts that would otherwise go unattended to. It is a sequence of soft gestures that reveal themselves over time and don’t lend themselves to simplistic analysis. The work is not didactic. You sense that Asher is as curious and distracted as the rest of us by the ambiguous results of his subtle revelations.

The following is from ‘Donald Judd‘ (2004):

Judd’s work stands in relation to other art as a clear focal point that is both instructive and repressed simultaneously. It accepts that we operate in relation to various geometries. It has little to do with design or architecture. It doesn’t stand in the way of progress but it requires us to think through processes of development and make a new set of decisions about our relationship to the world beyond the direct experience of art through its relatedness, not its referentiality.




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