Beyond Objecthood: The Exhibition as a Critical Form since 1968

Beyond Objecthood: The Exhibition as a Critical Form since 1968

by James Voorhies

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Overview

The rise of the exhibition as critical form and artistic medium, from Robert Smithson's antimodernist non-sites in 1968 to today's institutional gravitation toward the participatory.

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 Höller, Maria Lind, Apolonija Šušteršic, 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780262035521
Publisher: MIT Press
Publication date: 02/24/2017
Series: The MIT Press
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 713,229
Product dimensions: 6.90(w) x 9.60(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

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.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

Introduction: "Warning" 1

Beyond Objecthood 10

The Exhibition as a Critical Form since 1968 16

Chapter 1 The Rise of the Exhibition as a Form 21

Staging Grounds 21

Robert Smithson: The Time to See Non-Sites 23

Against a "Manneristic Modernism" 24

The Non-Site as Exhibition 29

Michael Asher: The Gallery as an Experiential Environment 32

Other Frames for the Viewer 39

At Münster: Moving toward the Perimeters 42

Group Material: Reshaping Forms 50

Grabbing Hold of the Technique 55

The Exhibition as a Work 57

Inhabiting the Institution: Modes of the Dialectic 62

Chapter 2 On New Institutionalism 71

The Critical Work 71

The Curator in Charge: This Is Harald Szeemann's Documenta 75

The Venice Biennale: Yesterday and Today 92

The 24/7 Biennial: Context Is Everything 97

Relational Art: Values of Encounters 100

"Learning to inhabit the world in a better way" 101

Manifesta: Anti-Biennial as New Institution 104

Manifesta 2: The Nonthematic, Thematic Exhibition 107

The Lifestyle Package 113

Kunstverein München: Invisible Orbits with Visible Change 128

The Future Is Now 134

Chapter 3 The Efficacy of a Critical Art 139

The Critical According to Jacques Rancière 139

Now Is Our Time: Martha Rosier, Josephine Meckseper, and Levi's 143

Thomas Hirschhorn: A Guilty Pleasure 162

Presence and Production: The Bijlmer Spinoza-Festival 166

The Crystallization of a Micro-Society 172

One Immersive World 177

Harnessing the Means of the Exhibition 183

Anton Vidokle: They don't have to be done like that 185

Michel Foucault: The Critical Attitude 190

Assuming the Shape of the Work 193

Chapter 4 The Industrial Art Complex 197

The Educational Turn in the Exhibition 197

Unexpected Byproducts of a Failed Manifesta 198

An Exhibition-as-School Grows in the Former East Berlin 200

A Mode of Address in the Curatorial Technique 207

New Institutionalism and Its Critics 209

An "Office" for Contemporary Art in Norway 212

Thinking Things Otherwise 213

An Expansion of the Public Sphere 216

What Ever Happened to New Institutionalism? 222

Carsten Höller: Down a Slide 224

Conclusion: On the Road 231

Notes 235

Index 265

What People are Saying About This

Paul O'Neill

An exceptional book bridging exhibition histories, curatorial research, and contemporary practice rather than giving in to the strained rhetorics of their accompanying discourses. Voorhies brings us up to date with the evolution of the curatorial and its numerous exhibition forms over the last twenty years or so. Like Voorhies's own practice, it draws expertly upon a deep understanding of the entanglement of curatorial research and artistic practice, their educational remit and their multiple exhibition forms, discursive sites, experiences, and contestations.

Catherine Wood

In Beyond Objecthood, Voorhies provides a clearly structured account of the evolution of context as the base of our aesthetic and political encounters with contemporary art. His account draws much-needed attention to the ways in which institutional habits and frames determine meaning in our encounter with an art object, and how key artists unsettle these habits to invoke critical power beyond the reach of much so-called 'political art'.

From the Publisher

An exceptional book bridging exhibition histories, curatorial research, and contemporary practice rather than giving in to the strained rhetorics of their accompanying discourses. Voorhies brings us up to date with the evolution of the curatorial and its numerous exhibition forms over the last twenty years or so. Like Voorhies's own practice, it draws expertly upon a deep understanding of the entanglement of curatorial research and artistic practice, their educational remit and their multiple exhibition forms, discursive sites, experiences, and contestations.

Paul O'Neill , Director of the Graduate Program, Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College; author of The Culture of Curating and the Curating of Culture (s)

James Voorhies narrates major public moments for Western art of the past fifty years, while positing a trajectory from Michael Fried's modernist fear of objecthood to a more contemporary politics of aesthetics after Jacques Rancière. Refreshingly open in its understanding of what might constitute an exhibition, this timely book should be celebrated for defending the potential for criticality arising across myriad forms.

Lucy Steeds , Senior Research Fellow for Afterall at Central Saint Martins (University of the Arts London); editor of Exhibition

In Beyond Objecthood , Voorhies provides a clearly structured account of the evolution of context as the base of our aesthetic and political encounters with contemporary art. His account draws much-needed attention to the ways in which institutional habits and frames determine meaning in our encounter with an art object, and how key artists unsettle these habits to invoke critical power beyond the reach of much so-called 'political art'.

Catherine Wood , Senior Curator, International Art (Performance) Tate Modern, London

Although the history of art is centuries old, barely a book could be found just a few decades ago that treated that uncollectable, ephemeral thing called 'the exhibition'—as opposed to the art object itself. The breadth of that still comparatively new history is being amended with a number of new publications that probe exhibitions as critical forms. James Voorhies's study sits squarely among these, tackling an impressive range of exhibitions, art projects, and discursive structures from 1968 to the present. He invites readers to see that what lies around and indeed beyond the object might nevertheless be at the very center of its comprehension.

Elena Filipovic , Director and Chief Curator, Kunsthalle Basel; author of The Apparently Marginal Activities of Marcel Duchamp

In Beyond Objecthood , James Voorhies offers a case study not only of the evolution of exhibitions as objects, but also of the role of any critical apparatus in relation to them. Here, today's emerging notions of audience engagement are afforded a complex history and set firmly within the armature of contemporary capitalist culture.

Johanna Burton , Keith Haring Director and Curator of Education and Public Engagement, New Museum; editor of Cindy Sherman and coeditor of Public Servants: Art and the Crisis of the Common Good

Endorsement

In Beyond Objecthood, James Voorhies offers a case study not only of the evolution of exhibitions as objects, but also of the role of any critical apparatus in relation to them. Here, today's emerging notions of audience engagement are afforded a complex history and set firmly within the armature of contemporary capitalist culture.

Johanna Burton, Keith Haring Director and Curator of Education and Public Engagement, New Museum; editor of Cindy Sherman and coeditor of Public Servants: Art and the Crisis of the Common Good

Lucy Steeds

James Voorhies narrates major public moments for Western art of the past fifty years, while positing a trajectory from Michael Fried's modernist fear of objecthood to a more contemporary politics of aesthetics after Jacques Rancière. Refreshingly open in its understanding of what might constitute an exhibition, this timely book should be celebrated for defending the potential for criticality arising across myriad forms.

Johanna Burton

In Beyond Objecthood, James Voorhies offers a case study not only of the evolution of exhibitions as objects, but also of the role of any critical apparatus in relation to them. Here, today's emerging notions of audience engagement are afforded a complex history and set firmly within the armature of contemporary capitalist culture.

Elena Filipovic

Although the history of art is centuries old, barely a book could be found just a few decades ago that treated that uncollectable, ephemeral thing called 'the exhibition'—as opposed to the art object itself. The breadth of that still comparatively new history is being amended with a number of new publications that probe exhibitions as critical forms. James Voorhies's study sits squarely among these, tackling an impressive range of exhibitions, art projects, and discursive structures from 1968 to the present. He invites readers to see that what lies around and indeed beyond the object might nevertheless be at the very center of its comprehension.

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