May I Help You?
- Artist: Andrea Fraser
- Creation date: 1991
- Object type: Video art
Andrea Fraser lives and works in New York and is one of the leading exponents of the genre of institutional critique. She first came to fame in the mid-1980s for her art gallery lectures and the performances she held in the guise of guided tours at various art institutions. In these works she critically reviewed the modes of presentation, hierarchic structures, and mechanisms of exclusion that she argues are prevalent within the world of art.
Fraser was invited to the various art institutions to create her performances, which problematized a number of issues concerning museums, private collectors, and the art world in general. In the videos that document her performances, Fraser conveys her message through parody and exaggeration, though always based on her in-depth research and expertise. She writes her manuscripts as a sort of collage based on interviews with artists, curators, art lovers, and other “voices” from the field of art. The performer – either Fraser herself or a hired actor – presents a set of different voices whose juxtaposition brings to light their various social positions. May I Help You underlines the connection between social class and the consumption of art, and was originally performed in 1991 in New York at an exhibition featuring works by the American artist Allan McCollum. During the performance, “tour guides”, who were in fact actors, presented six different perspectives, ranging from a connoisseur who loves art to a person who feels threatened by and excluded from the world of art.