Andrea Fraser's work, writes Pierre Bourdieu in his foreword to Museum Highlights, is able to "trigger a social mechanism, a sort of machine infernale whose operation causes the hidden truth of social reality to reveal itself." It often does this by incorporating and inhabiting the social role it sets out to critique—as in a performance piece in which she leads a tour as a museum docent and describes the men's room in the same elevated language that she uses to describe seventeenth-century Dutch paintings. Influenced by the interdisciplinarity of postmodernism, Fraser's interventionist art draws on four primary artistic and intellectual frameworks—institutional critique, with its site-specific examination of cultural context; performance; feminism, with its investigation of identity formation; and Bourdieu's reflexive sociology. Fraser's writings form an integral part of her artistic practice, and this collection of texts written between 1985 and 2003—including the performance script for the docent's tour that gives the book its title—both documents and represents her work.The writings in Museum Highlights are arranged to reflect different aspects of Fraser's artistic practice. They include essays that trace the development of critical "artistic practice" as cultural resistance; performance scripts that explore art institutions and the public sphere; and texts that explore the ambivalent relationship of art to the economic and political interests of its time. The final piece, "Isn't This a Wonderful Place? (A Tour of a Tour of the Guggenheim Bilbao)," reflects on the role of museums in an era of globalization. Among the book's 30 illustrations are stills from performance pieces, some never before published.
About the Author
Andrea Fraser is an artist who lives and works in New York City.
About the Editor
Alexander Alberro is Virginia Bloedel Wright '51 Associate Professor of Art History at Barnard College. He is the author of Conceptual Art and the Politics of Publicity (2000), and coeditor (with Blake Stimson) of Conceptual Art: A Critical Anthology (2000), both published by the MIT Press.
“These transcripts, along with the other essays in Museum Highlights, are a testament to Fraser’s forcefulness as a writer, one for whom the act of writing and by necessity reading and researching is indivisible from her practice as an artist.”—Pamela M. Lee, Artforum
“The publication of this anthology marks a welcome occasion to reconsider the interweaving themes of Fraser’s practice in relation to each other.”—Kirsi Peltomaki, Afterimage
“See the global culture industry laid bare with wit, erudition, and, above all, action.”—Kieran Long, Icon Magazine
“Andrea Fraser has crafted an exemplary artistic practice devolving from institutional critique. Central to her work from its beginnings are texts that assume diverse guises—research, analysis, theory—and diverse voices—witty, dry, affecting, clinical. This much-anticipated compendium richly demonstrates her singular ability to nullify normative distinctions between the work of art and analytic commentary, between the psychoanalytic and the fictive, as she mines the interwoven desires of the principal players in the art world—museums, artists, and audiences.”
—Lynne Cooke, Curator, Dia Art Foundation
“A stunning book—Andrea Fraser turns the art museum inside out, time and again, in her incisive and mercilessly witty deconstructions. A rare combination of committed artistic practice working hand-in-hand with the insights of cultural theory.”
—Tony Bennett, Professor of Sociology and Director, ESRC Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change at The Open University and the University of Manchester