Part Four – Assignment 4: Difference in perspectives and finding potential

Given the nature of difference-in-itself, or what we have referred to as theoretical difference, it would be an error to say that it appears in some works and not others. It would also be an error to think that difference was the only thing a work had to offer. However, with some caution and a little licence, we can show that some works invite a differential interpretation more than others. Such works will generally have a double aspect like the ’duck-rabbit’ and other picture puzzles though this won’t always be visual, it may be conceptual. Allegories and simulacra are also suggestive of difference.

Choose one of the works below and explore its possible interpretations in terms of difference. Think carefully about its potential and research the work before you begin.

“Ce n’est pas une image juste, c’est juste une image.” – Jean-Luc Godard

Godard’s expression relates to his film Le Vent d’Est (1970), as a simple phrase of difference in visual perception and meaning. Translated into english with similar meaning: This is not a right image, image just (right, correct), it is just an image. Quite in context of Deleuze, it affirms the image in itself. It quite relates to Asher’s work for Claire Copley Gallery (1974). The ‘image’ of the gallery, that can be either experienced from inside, from outside, as a photo, as a context, or ‘just’ an image.

I was wondering why the images published – also in Asher’s own writings – do not show the audience. As I find the audience’s perception on- and in-site an integral part of understanding possible interpretations. Thus, I took the freedom to appropriate the photo and overlay it with ‘gallery visitors’ (Fig. 1), manipulate in Photoshop.

ref: [online images] at: and – Accessed on 20 Oct 2017)

Stefan 513593 - appropriated photo with visitors (M. Asher Claire Copley Gallery, 1974)

Fig. 1: Stefan 513593 – appropriated photo with visitors (M. Asher Claire Copley Gallery, 1974)

Based on my initial brainstorming, outline of reading, I started to phrase my essay working thesis as:

The Paradox of Difference – Artworks and Institutions

From my research on Michael Asher’s body of work around in the 1970s, some thoughts on Claire Copley Gallery (1974) as well on Art history (Minimal Art leading towards Conceptual Art and Institutional Critique) I can see that one could consider various fields of difference.

Stefan513593 - assignment 4 - preparation - Asher - Claire Copley, 1974

Fig. 2: Stefan513593 – assignment 4 – preparation – Asher – Claire Copley, 1974

As a result of my research, I made a visual map of key elements related to Asher’s work (Fig. 2)

But the question is how all of this relates to ‘Difference in Itself’ or ‘Difference as subordinate to identity’ as mentioned in the course material (p. 104).

And is Asher’s work showing a double aspect like the ’duck-rabbit’? Or is his work rather a representation and a ‘complaint against the norms of language, images, and social and political structures’ as Olkowski stated (Olkowski, 1999:2). But I tend more towards the double aspect, as looked at in my previous post. The reception of artwork as object or field of experience, the artist as producer or mediator, the individual as slave or master in Hegelian notion.

I feel I am coming closer to my line of reasoning and pulling now all strings together. Further below in this post are the key difference mapped alongside the potential of the discourse that lead towards my conclusion. 

What kind and degree of DIFFERENCE can be discerned?

My revised visual map of difference (based on previous dialectic comparison: Role of the Artist, Context of Art in 1960s/70s, Context of Michael Asher’s work (1974), and Michael Asher (1974) Claire Copley Gallery):
Stefan513593 - assignment 4 - preparation - Asher - Claire Copley, 1974 -revised

Fig. 2: Stefan513593 – assignment 4 – preparation – Asher – Claire Copley, 1974 -revised

The main areas of interest that all constitutes the institution of art are:
  • The Artist
  • The Audience
  • The Space
  • The Gallery context


The key aspects of Difference I will look at are:
  1. Difference in perception (spatial, contextual, social, site specificity)
  2. Difference in art as work (role of artist, objectification, temporality)
  3. Difference in itself versus representational frameworks (inside-outside)
  4. Difference as master/slave dialectic (artist – gallery – audience)
  5. Difference in discourse (institution, commodification, commercialisation, marginalisation)


What might be the potential? 

To know the taste of the pear you have to change the pear by eating it. – Mao
The potential can be considered in various ways. In a Deleuzian sense of the potentiality, the possibilities immanent in an undifferentiated ground, as the potential of becoming, of actualisation.
Or the potential  in a dictionary sense of ‘capable of development into actuality’, what perhaps is not too far away. I could also the potential at Asher’s time (1974) towards meaning and signification today (2017).
Asher’s own conception of the gallery as an’ essential context for cultural reception’ of his work (Asher, 1983:100) alongside the traditional notion of the White Cube as an emblem, a signifier for the ‘estrangement of the artist from the society to which the gallery provides access to’ (O’Doherty, 1999:80) might be seen as a contradiction. In quite an Hegelian dialectic is Fraser rephrasing the artist’s critique of the institution into a synthesis practice to (Fraser, 2005)
“defend the very institution that the institutionalization of the avant-garde’s “self-criticism” had created the potential for: an institution of critique” – A. Fraser
Fraser’s argumentation, that I quite agree with, of the conception of the artist against the institution is quite similar to Hegel’s master/slave contradiction. Either through discourse of defending marginalized groups, finding alternative exhibition spaces and rejecting capitalist commodification of artwork, or through an heroic approach by destroying the same institution the artist is depending on. Already Asher considered the situation as a paradox.
Fraser argued that the institution of art is the overall ‘social universe’ of art, including all areas of production, exhibiting, distribution, and consumption, physically and all art discourse. She noted that Asher extended Duchamp’s notion of art is art when signed by an artist and showed in a museum. Thus, the institution of art is intrinsic to art and art if defined by the ‘perception of participants in the field of art as art’ (Fraser, 2005). What seems like a self-referential argument is visually and experientially demonstrated by Asher’s work for Claire Copley Gallery by placing the spectator literally inside the integrated gallery space embracing production (artist), exhibition and distribution (gallery) and consumption (the spectator self). It is a ‘seeing’ and understanding from within. and not from outside of the institution. Thus, it is not a battle against an other, external entity, but rather a transformational comprehension, or in Pierre Bourdieu’s term, the habitus as the embodied social perception.
One can conclude that the former radical resistance and symbolic revolution became internalized through the wider definition of art as institution. And it looks like the answer to the art critic and historian Benjamin Buchloh (Cottington, 2005:23) when he described in the mid 1980s avant-garde art movement in art as:
“a continually renewed struggle over the definition of cultural meaning, … the development of new strategies to counteract and develop resistance against the tendency of ideological apparatus of the cultural industry to occupy and to control all practices and all spaces of representation” – B. Buchloh


What leaves open the question of affirmation, appropriation, and adaptation. The ready-made, either as Marcel Duchamp’s object or as Michael Asher’s gallery wall,  is a demonstration of the affirmative creative power of the artist as Barnett Newman expressed it 1947. Therefore, art can be seen with Deleuze’s notion as the actualisation of multiple ideas, of difference. By that the Hegelian master/slave contradiction can be overcome as being-for-itself and becoming self-aware of ones self-possession (Hass, 2011: 381-384). This is true for all parties involved, but especially the artist her-/himself.
Asher’s work for the Claire Copley gallery can be seen as an example for a different comprehension of the cultural context of art, an experience that not only reveals underlying support structures but also convinces through a phenomenological and psychological experience

  • Asher, M. (1983) Writings 1973-83 on works 1969-1979. (15). Edited by Buchloh, B. H. D. [online]. Available from:  (Accessed on 26 Sep 2017).
  • Cottington, D. (2005) Modern art: A Very Short Introduction, Very Short Introductions. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Fraser, A. (2005) ‘From the Critique of Institutions to an Institution of Critique’, in: ArtForum. [online]. 44(1),  pp. 278–83278-83283,83332,83210,  Available from:  (Accessed on 14 Oct 2017).
  • Hass, A. W. (2011) ‘Artist Bound: The Enslavement of Art to the Hegelian Other ‘, in: Literature and Theology. [online]. 25(4),  pp. 379-392,  Available from:  (Accessed on 25 Sep 2017).
  • O’Doherty, B. (1999) Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space. University of California Press [pdf]. Available from:  (Accessed on 12 Oct 2017).
  • Olkowski, D. (1999) Gilles Deleuze and the Ruin of Representation. Berkeley; Los Angeles; London: University of California Press.
  • Rees, A. L. and Borzello, F. (1988) The New Art History. Humanities Press International, Inc. .

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