“Reference is a way of marketing knowledge so that it is very quick and thereby very superficial. Reference in the work of art is in the service of devaluating knowledge or turning concepts into short names. Using reference in the work of art leaves the viewer to endlessly associate what the work is about. It thereby gives the viewer an illusion that they have experienced something profound. In this respect, it is a decoy so the viewer will do the artist’s labor for them. It is also a decoy to make it seem like the artist is situated within the work of art when the artist is really just back at the studio making another set of references in another artwork.”
Michael Asher, “Notes for lecture at Institut des Hautes Études en Arts Plastiques, Paris, 1991: ‘Response’ (1991),” in Asher, Public Knowledge: Selected Writings by Michael Asher, ed. by Kirsi Peltomäki (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2019), 34.