Andrea Fraser is a performance artist who has participated in art dialogues for over three decades in critique of the art world. Her show, “L’1%, c’est moi,” is now on display at the University Contemporary Art Museum (MUAC) and includes a variety of pieces which range from video and sound, to photography and essay. Her work, infused with humor and wit, asks the viewer to question the ways in which the art world functions to maintain social and economic divisions.
One of the featured pieces, “May I help you?” is a video which points to the art world’s reification of social hierarchies by satirizing the art gallery experience. In this piece, which is displayed in three videos filmed several years apart, the protagonist, often Fraser, but sometimes other actors, walks around a room acting out several individuals with varying social positions. She makes sharp turns from persona to persona, often absurdly contradicting what was said in previous statements to assert an object’s lack of immutable meaning.
She uses her surroundings to signify different social positions, pointing to objects and interpreting them based on her character. In some shots she points to paintings and, in a positive manner, explains how their use lies in their ability to separate the privileged elite from the rest of society, as the pieces can only be respected and understood by particular people. In other shots, she criticizes the same piece for excluding a certain class of people and maintaining social divisions, to the detriment of society.
Fraser makes a point to say she is not against the institution. However, she is critical of the type of institution the art world is and the values it maintains. Partly, this is due to the institutionalization of institutional critiques. Nonetheless, Fraser has had her feet firmly grounded in the art world for decades, with a commitment to alter discussion. Her ability to occupy different positions as both critic and performer/artist allows her to direct viewers to certain questions and parody particular dialogues, while allowing the public to come to their own conclusions, directing discussion without being pedantic.
She focuses on the material nature of the art world. While she notes the art world’s attempt to remove the materiality from a piece of art, to bring attention solely to its metaphysical characteristics, she maintains that these pieces can only exist so long as they have material value. The result is a questioning which directs the viewer to their position as a consumer of art.
“L’1%, c’est moi” is on display at MUAC until March 3.
MUAC, located in Coyoacán, is open Wed., Fri., and Sun. from 10-6 p.m. and Thur. and Sat. from 10-8 p.m.