Andrea Fraser

Untitled (Documentation)

[portfolio_slideshow size=large pagerpos=disabled trans=scrollHorz navpos=bottom]
CreditsCourtesy of the artist and Galerie Christian Nagel

In 2003 Untitled was realised as a social and economic relationship that involved three primary agents: a female artist (Andrea Fraser), her dealer at the time and a male collector who agreed to purchase a videotape (one of what would be an edition of five) documenting his sexual encounter with the artist. The artist’s dealer helped the artist find a collector who would agree to collaborate on the work’s production.

Untitled remains one of the most controversial and groundbreaking artworks of the past decade, causing much moralising when its documents were first exhibited in the US. Untitled is obviously then the kind of artwork that cannot be ‘seen’ at an exhibition since it was executed, once and for all, as part of actual socio-economic relations in real time and real space. Untitled marks contemporary art’s departure from a politics of representation and its relocation into the circuits that determine the exchange value of life experience as such.

One of the salient aspects of Untitled is that it does not have a clearly marked beginning and end. It developed around, but was not limited to, a re-enactment, by all involved, of the sociality encountered in the contemporary art world and signalled the artist’s re-engagement with the commodity form in that context. In Untitled the contemporary art world is portrayed as a place and time where the boundaries between life and work are becoming increasingly porous. Untitled’s effects on the artist and her collaborators cannot be communicated through the artwork’s documentation and are destined to remain unknown, unfolding in the entanglement of lives, careers and subjectivities. Untitled is not a performance that can be repeated, even if with variations, and partly at least its production was intended to offer insight into the complexity and opacity of transactions involving the sale of art as labour as well as into the sexualisation of labour overall defining the current economic order.