In this video, artist Andrea Fraser offers an unorthodox tour of the museum. Although this work was made over thirty years ago, many of the issues Fraser raises are relevant today, particularly her commentary on imbalances of power in art institutions.
In February 1989, Andrea Fraser assumed the role of fictional docent Jane Castleton and performed a tour of the museum, including spaces traditionally overlooked, such as restrooms, the cafeteria, and shops. Fraser addresses not only the history of the institution and its collection, but also broader social and political concerns, particularly affecting the city of Philadelphia. Fraser’s language parodies the vocabulary and style commonly used in museums, creating a disjuncture between the object being described and the tone and words used to describe it. The result is a lucid portrait of the museum and the conventions attached to it and to the art world at large.
The work was part of a lectures series at Tyler School of Art at Temple University in Philadelphia, and was performed in front of a live audience five times.
This work is often associated with so-called “institutional critique,” a practice that emerged in the 1980s to call out and challenge social, political, and economic forces and discrimination in the arts. Fraser and scholar Benjamin H. D. Buchloh have used institutional critique in their examinations of the work of artists Daniel Buren, Hans Haacke, Michael Asher, and Louise Lawler, among others.
This installation has been made possible by the Daniel W. Dietrich II Fund for Excellence in Contemporary Art.
Lara Demori, PhD, Research Associate in Contemporary Art; and Alexis Assam, former Constance E. Clayton Fellow in Contemporary Art