James Voorhies is a curator and art historian of modern and contemporary art. His curatorial, writing, and teaching practice functions under the name Bureau for Open Culture, a platform and strategy that inhabits and connects with arts and education institutions to question the role of institutions, spectatorship, and criticality in contemporary culture. Bureau for Open Culture projects often interweave curators, writers, educators, artists, and co-conspirators into situations that undermine engrained behaviors of institutions, forging new intersections among art, design, education, and consumer culture to rethink how institutions address and engage the public and build community.

In his new book Beyond Objecthood: The Exhibition as a Critical Form since 1968 (MIT Press, 2017), Voorhies traces the changing role of the spectator in art and exhibitions over the past 50 years from Minimalism to Relational Art, and New Institutionalism to the present. The narrative is bracketed by American artist Robert Smithson’s seminal non-sites that asked spectators to look, walk, view, read, and think about combinations of objects, images, and texts installed in a gallery and the Swedish curator Maria Lind’s groundbreaking renovations of the exhibition form and the museum space into something more active, open, and democratic inviting the public into new and unexpected encounters with works of art and institutions. His book questions about the continued potential of the exhibition as a critical form⎯or medium⎯in a time when the differences between art and entertainment increasingly blur.

Voorhies received his Ph.D. from the Department of Art History at the Ohio State University in 2012. He is currently the Chair of Curatorial Practice at California College of the Arts in San Francisco. Prior to CCA, he served as the first John R. and Barbara Robinson Family Director of the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard University where he conceived and directed a contemporary arts program dedicated to the synthesis of art, design, and education through exhibition of existing works and production of new commissions. He has taught art history and curatorial practice in Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard, art and public space at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, and art history and critical theory at Bennington College, Vermont. His writing has appeared in publications by Texte zur Kunst, Frieze, Harvard Design Magazine, Performa as well as many artist monographs and exhibition catalogues. His recent publications include an edited volume titled What Ever Happened to New Institutionalism? (Sternberg Press and Carpenter Center, 2016); Martin Beck: An Organized System of Instructions (Sternberg Press and Carpenter Center, 2017); and Beyond Objecthood: The Exhibition as a Critical Form since 1968 (MIT Press, 2017). He is currently working on a book titled Binding Agents: Toward an Aesthetic of the Postcolonial in Contemporary Exhibition.

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