Jessica Silverman Gallery is pleased to host the San Francisco launch of James Voorhies’s Beyond Objecthood: The Exhibition as a Critical Form since 1968 (MIT Press, 2017). The book signing is accompanied by a multi-vocal, audience reading of excerpts from the book, which gives a brief history of the exhibition as a form that invites spectators into temporal and spatial experiencess. The reading, like the book, will trace the changing role of the spectator in art and exhibitions from Minimalism to Relational Art, and New Institutionalism to the present.
Following the reading, cultural sociologist Sarah Thornton will moderate questions from the audience.
Location: Jessica Silverman Gallery
488 Ellis St., San Francisco, CA
Time: 5–7 p.m.
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.