Writings 1973-1983 on works 1969-1979 / Michael Asher
Written in collaboration with Benjamin H.D. Buchloh
Press of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and MOCA Los Angeles,  ISDN 0919616275
In the Summer 2008 Artforum, Andrea Fraser makes the case that Michael Asher's practice could be seen as one of service provision, rather than the conventional art labor of object making. To be sure--other than a handful of instances--little exists in the way of viewable permanent installations of Asher's work.
While it may be impossible to completely remove one's self from this capitalist world we live in (and still participate in the world of art) through his mode of production, Asher has at least managed to dis-implicate himself from the secondary art market--the one that thrives on speculation and withholds a lion's share of the dollar value of art from the maker--and instead puts it in the hands of the investor.
Towards the end of her article, Fraser laments one aspect of this strategy: by not making objects that appreciate, Asher leaves us with little that is appreciable. What we are left with is documentation and ephemera. She refers to the archive as the "Potter's Field" of the art world.
Taking a big step back in the art history timeline, I'd like to look at an earlier object, for comparison:
So besides the formal reading, the historical reading, the Marxist reading, etc., it becomes necessary to examine the art object as something that is both coveted and collected. In fact, Fraser begins and ends the essay with the description of her own prized (and lost) possession, Michael Asher's Writings 1973-1983 on Works 1969-1979. Also the blocks for Michael's show at Le Consortium in Dijon (meant to be distributed to working-class households in the neighborhood) have been coveted and collected by people who prize such things.
Last year's auction of a 1968 Asher sculpture at Bonhams and Butterfields for $27,500 shows that the art world is most comfortable conversing and trading in objects. Recent survey shows like MOCA's "A Minimalist Future? Art as Object 1958-1968" and the Kunstverein Braunschweig's "Kunst aus Los Angeles der 60er bis 90er Jahre" (Art from Los Angeles from the 60s to the 90s) show that Michael's fate may be that he becomes misrepresented to future generations through his early object-based work.
Another important aspect of Fraser's article is her shifting of the conversation about Asher from the institutional critique to his mode of production. Still, one must recognize that Asher's mode of production becomes impossible without an institution to hang it on (be it a gallery like Claire Copley, a museum like the MCA in Chicago, or a Kunsthalle like SMMoA). So in some sense it can be seen as an institute-dependent mode of production.
In my own artistic production I wonder if it possible to create work outside the conventional institutions and still participate (in a significant way) in the art world's conversations. Through the blog form and the creation of Improvised Artistic Devices, perhaps objects can trigger ideas in the beholder, like Proust's madeleine or Fraiser's remembrance of lost books.