Michael Asher “art often carries further across time than space.”

While showing at the Graduate show at Chelsea last month, I had a really interesting conversation about the materiality and installation of my work with the unfailingly generous David Cross, who recommended I looked at the work of Michael Asher.

The photo above is a newpaper reference to an ongoing project in Munich which ran from the 1970’s until 2007 when the caravan was stolen. As it moved around the city it occupies spaces, safe in the parameters of an ‘art project’, but each time it moved it’s location was swallowed by another vehicle or even building works. I read that he was delighted when it did get stolen, and said “art often carries further across time than space.”

Such is the nature of Asher’s practice that it is actually impossible to look at any of his actual work, and I never will, now he has passed away. All that remains are informal records and references to the projects: Part of his method was the stipulation that the locations of his interventions be returned to the state they were in before he worked there. He did not consider accompanying  documentation, catalogues, etc as artworks.

It reminded me of the work of Tino Segal which I saw at the Hamburger Bahnhöff in Berlin. A performer filled the space with song periodically, but we were able to chat to her in between performances- she explained how the artist fought not to be included in the catalogue, maintains no online presence ( a feat these days), and even refuses to sign a contract- all is done verbally. This audacious confidence in one’s own existence really stayed with me. By that I mean, I have in recent years considered my art to validate my existence- it gives me a motive and a physical proof that I am still here. If that were to evaporate, would I still exist?

With the Asher no longer living it adds a poignancy to the way I see his art, and makes me immediately consider how I see the artwork as artifact. This first came up during my residency at Grey Area last year: After I had found and arranged all the wires and cables according to what was in the space, I then formed them into a bundle- the discussion brought up whether this was a commercial decision, which shocked me as I hadn’t thought of it that way. The presentation was so ingrained in my thinking, I hadn’t questioned it. Which is why it was so good to face it.

CadiFroehlichSymposium2.009

With all the hype and expectations surrounding the graduate show, my thoughts ineveitable turned to the future, and how I would sustain my practice. The fable of the magic patron who might appear raises other issues such as authorship, autonomy and the heartbreak of parting with works I had actually fallen in love with over the months. All really interesting.
This possiblity, the sly expectation objectifies all works in the space.

My stubborn faith in the hanging work and the liberal use of the readymade felt must have been my subconsious shouting to step outside of the neat object presentation. I hope so anyway.

cadi froehlich MA show

Michael Asher

Michael Asher 1943–2012: Parting Words and Unfinished Work | e-flux.