Fraser Chapter 6

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S.R. Okay, these were the questions I have, stereotypical, but I think maybe it's possible to focus a little bit on your concrete situation that you are preparing this big retrospective. If you don't like the question you shouldn't answer. I can imagine that this brings up again questions to yourself, you figured out as an artist, with a specific project, which is always in relation to the places where you are working, and the specific literature you read to specific points of your biography. So do you want to say something about this?

A.F. About what relationship? A retrospective might have to that kind of practice? Well, it might not have a strong relationship to that kind of practice. It's a complicated question to answer because I... - Probably the most accurate way to respond to that question is to say this is a departure but it's also in some ways a return because in fact there was a period of time basically between 1993 and 1998 when I pursued a kind of very programmatic and rigorous form of site-specificity that was largely defined by prospectuses that I produced in 1993, that defined my artistic activity as a service, that I could engage in with institutions but also with individuals potentially, and private foundations and different kinds of organizations. During that period of time I worked in an exclusively site-specific way where producing works that sometimes could be presented outside of those contexts in the form of video tapes or other kinds of documentation but were intended only to be able function in that immediate context. Prior to that, however, between 1984 and 1993, I did a number of other kinds of works as well, some of which were engaged with other forms of site-specificity – primarily what I think of is a kind of relational specificity – that could exist in different kinds of physical locations but we are more dependant on some of the social conditions of those situations, for example that it was a commercial gallery. »May I help you?« was a performance that was originally done in a commercial gallery in New York but it was also performed at the art fair in Cologne, and I thought of it less as site-specific than relationally specific and it could be displaced. And in the past few years, I returned a little bit more to that notion of site-specificity – partly out of an interest in engaging contemporary phenomena within the art world, and also contemporary conditions within institutions which I think have changed significantly in the past five or ten years in terms of the corporatization of museums, the spectacularization of museums, the emergence of the field of museums as a very competitive market that is competing with popular culture and popular cultural entertainment complexes and popular spectacle. It's a very long answer, but I have the feeling I have to figure out for myself that many of the kinds of strategies that were developed by my generation of artists are based largely on the influence of previous generations of artists' strategies of site-specific intervention, and a lot of the practices that I was sort of engaged with around the notion of services, I think, started to take on a different meaning and a different status within institutions as they became more and more corporatized. I think this is probably more true of the United States than of Europe, but I think it can also be seen here as well, particularly in Great Britain, but also in Germany. And also video and performance in particular became – as practices that emerged out of a critique of object-production in part, out of the critique of the cultural commodity – also became favored media within the context of museums for the delivery of spectacle and they became the media for the spectacularization of the artist also. At a certain point a couple of things happened. One, I stopped getting invitations to work in museums, so I kind of had to decide, either I was going to stop being an artist which I considered fairly seriously. And around `88, `89, I was teaching, I was getting more involved in cultural policy studies and cultural studies contexts. And I was thinking, maybe I should sort of pursue that aspect of the work that I've done and continue to do research and to write about museums, about cultural institutions, but in a more academic mode rather than an artistic one. Or my other option was to return to other kinds of sites, to return to the gallery, which I rejected pretty much since 1993. And I decided that I would prefer to continue to be an artist, and that also meant at that point to try to turn my attention in a way to the position of the artist and the status of the artist, from what a lot of my work in the 90s and in the 80s had focused on which were other positions within the field of art: collectors, trustees, curators, patrons, educators and so on.

to be continued in Chapter 7...

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