Rebecca Siegel

Kirsi Peltomäki is Associate Professor of Art History at Oregon State University and the author of Situation Aesthetics: The Work of Michael Asher (MIT Press).

  • Public Knowledge

    Public Knowledge

    Selected Writings by Michael Asher

    Michael Asher and Rebecca Siegel

    Writings by the conceptual artist Michael Asher—including notes, proposals, exhibition statements, and letters to curators and critics—most published here for the first time.

    The California conceptual artist Michael Asher (1943–2012) was known for rigorous site specificity and pioneering institutional critique. His decades of teaching at CalArts influenced generations of artists. Much of Asher's artistic practice was devoted to creating works that had no lasting material presence and often responded to the material, social, or ideological context of a situation. Because most of Asher's artworks have ceased to exist, his writings about them have special significance. Public Knowledge collects writings by Asher about his work—including preliminary notes and ideas, project proposals, exhibition statements, and letters to curators and critics—most of which have never been previously published.

    Asher gave few interviews, didn't write art criticism, and rarely published extensive accounts of his own work. Yet writing was central to his artistic practice, serving as a tool for working out ideas, negotiating institutional parameters, and describing thought processes. In these texts, he considers writing and documentation, discusses artistic practice, offers notes for gallery and museum talks, presents artist statements for exhibition-goers, describes individual works and their situational context, and reflects on teaching and art education. Among other things, Asher provides his definition of site specificity, addresses the function of art in public space, and analyzes the intersection of teaching art and institutional models of education. Readers will see an artist at work, formulating ethical and political strategies for making art in a situational world.

    • Hardcover $29.95 £25.00
  • Situation Aesthetics

    Situation Aesthetics

    The Work of Michael Asher

    Rebecca Siegel

    The first book-length study of this influential artist's work, focusing on the participatory role of the human subject rather than the art object.

    Michael Asher doesn't make typical installations. Instead, he extracts his art from the institutions in which it is shown, culling it from collections, histories, or museums' own walls. Since the late 1960s, Asher has been creating situations that have not only taught us about the conditions and contexts of contemporary art, but have worked to define it.

    In Situation Aesthetics, Kirsi Peltomäki examines Asher's practice by analyzing the social situations that the artist constructs in his work for viewers, participants, and institutional representatives (including gallery directors, curators, and other museum staff members). Drawing on art criticism, the reports of viewers and participants in Asher's projects, and the artist's own archives, Peltomäki offers a comprehensive account of Asher's work over the past four decades. Because of the intensely site-specific nature of this work, as well as the artist's refusal to reconstruct past works or mount retrospectives, many of the projects Peltomäki discusses are described here for the first time.

    By emphasizing the social and psychological sites of art rather than the production of autonomous art objects, Peltomäki argues, Asher constructs experientially complex situations that profoundly affect those who encounter them, bringing about both personal and institutional transformation.

    • Hardcover $19.75 £15.99
    • Paperback $19.95 £15.99