You Just Have to Experience It

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Date/Time
Date(s) - 09/18/2017
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm

Location
Wexner Center for the Arts

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In his new book “Beyond Objecthood: The Exhibition as a Critical Form since 1968,” art historian and curator James Voorhies traces the changing role of the spectator in art and exhibitions from Minimalism to Relational Art, and New Institutionalism to the present. The narrative is bracketed by American artist Robert Smithson’s seminal non-sites that asked spectators to look, walk, view, read, and think about combinations of objects, images, and texts installed in a gallery and the Swedish curator Maria Lind’s groundbreaking renovations of the exhibition form and the museum space into something more active, open, and democratic inviting the public into new and unexpected encounters with works of art and institutions.

Voorhies’s talk titled, “You Just Have to Experience It,” draws a line through these histories by looking at work by Thomas Hirschhorn, Carsten Höller, Anne Imhof, Maria Lind, Martha Rosler, Hito Steyerl, Apolonija Šušteršič, and Harald Szeemann at venues such as Documenta, Kunstverein München, Skulptur Projekte Münster, the New Museum, and the Venice Biennale to pose questions about the continued potential of the exhibition as a critical form⎯or medium⎯in a time when the differences between art and entertainment increasingly blur.

The talk will be immediately followed by a book signing at the Wexner Center Bookshop.

“Beyond Objecthood: The Exhibition as a Critical Form since 1968”

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 Šušteršič, 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.

Published by MIT Press, 2017
73 color and 15 b&w illustrations
288 pages; 9.375 x 6.5 inches

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