How is time configured in processes of artistic and cultural production? And what does this tell us about ideas of history, tradition, and imagination? This panel invites papers that theorise the multiple temporalities of creative practices across the arts, music, and cultural production.
From the project temporalities of freelance artistic labour, to the microsocial temporalities of performance, improvisation or studio practices, to the longue durée of cultural heritage traditions, variable forms of time and temporality are evoked and produced in processes of cultural production. Drawing on diverse ethnographic contexts, this panel expands on anthropological theorisations of time and transformation by drawing on fieldwork exploring the temporalities of artistic, musical, and cultural processes. We wish to highlight the need to analyse the multiplicity of conceptions and enactments of time in cultural processes, taking seriously the contributions of the arts and music to the production and theorization of time. Art and music have a dual quality: they are situated within ongoing historical processes, but they also produce time in diverse ways. Rather than dwelling on analyses of particular artistic practices and their ephemerality, or on conceptions of heritage and deep time, we aim to highlight how the study of multiple temporalities in artistic and cultural production can inform our understanding of history, tradition, and imagination more generally and feed back into core discussions in the anthropology of time and cultural history.
We invite papers from any ethnographic context to address the following questions raised by theme 4 (transformation and time): How does time figure in imaginative and artistic processes? How are pasts and futures articulated through material and aesthetic practices? How are institutions involved in canonizing the past, preserving the present or promoting change? How can aesthetics be thought anew in relation to temporal processes?
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
Resonances - music of the past in the making of the future
How much give does the past have in the making of a future?
"We need to invite more people in." The urging voice of the rector marked the beginning of the parochial meeting where the future of the church was to be discussed. His deep concern was echoed by a member of the congregation whose contribution punctuated the tension of this 'traditional', middle-of-the-road parish church - "if we continue without making any changes, this church is going to die". In the context of declining numbers in 'traditional' Anglican churches ensuring a future means having to critically and creatively engage with the past. My paper draws on an ethnography of a traditional, middle-of-the-road parish church in London to explore how music both affords and limits the articulation of past, present and future.
I illustrate that music style and practice in this church afford various dimensions of the past - tradition, collective memory and personal histories, to converge, thus shaping and cultivating particular affective resonances for established members of the church. At the same time, these affective resonances become problematic in the efforts to incorporate new members, so as to ensure a future for the church. By looking at discourses and practices of church music, I explore how the drive and necessity to promote change, while agreed upon by both church leadership and members, is in fact punctured by affective manifestations of the past. What kinds of future are then possible? How much give does the past have?
Multiple temporalities in intercultural musical performance: imagining the future by bringing the past into the present
Looking at music improvisation in an intercultural setting, I trace how different musical and migration histories are being articulated in the microsociality and microtemporality of the musical performance and how such articulations of the pasts make imaginations of postmigratory futures possible.
This paper draws from an ethnographic study of the Turkish-German music project Selam Opera situated at the Comic Opera Berlin. Looking at an improvised performance that took place in the context of this project, I explore how different temporalities figure in this musical performance in which various musicians with different musical and migratory biograpahies were engaged. Based on Born's (2017) notion of social aesthetics, I trace how different musical and migration histories are being articulated in the microsociality and microtemporality of these musical practices and how such articulations of the pasts make imaginations of postmigratory futures possible. Pasts, in this connection, take on a dual form. For one, individual musical trajectories inform the creative practices of the musicians. These musical biographies moreover intersect with and are shaped by specific migratory histories that thus become thelmselves active sites of creative engagment, interaction and negotiation. Such individual experiences of time, however, are also embedded in and build on longer-standing historical developments relating to both musical institutionalisation processes in Germany and Turkey, as well as to migration flows and regulations between Turkey and Germany. I explore how the practice of improvisation not only makes musical distinctions and connections between Western art music and Turkish musical traditions audible, but might also productively challenge broader hierarchies manifesting in Western musical institutions by unsettling expected creative formats and approaches to performance. I argue that through articulating musical and migratory pasts in the present setting of muscial improvisation, a postmigratory approach to aestehtics (and beyond) becomes imaginable.
Recalibrating complex multi-temporality in musicking with contemporary views of complex systems
The presentation highlights a heuristic view of the complex multi-temporality of musicking. It introduces concepts from contemporary complexity-based sciences that shed light on the emergence of patterns and regularities of experience and cultural production.
Christopher Small's concept of musicking is often praised for bringing the production of musical meaning back to the ground of actions of multiple agents -from venue cleaners to conductors. The concept is thus usually brought to bear on discussions about ethical inclusion, and democratisation. There is, however, a different aspect of Small's proposal that often remains underdeveloped. That is, a conceptual link with theories of complexity and cybernetics. Small, harking back to Bateson, casts the complexity of musicking, aesthetic experience, and cultural production in terms of a "pattern which connects" (Small, 1998).
This paper takes Small's complexity-inspired view as a starting point and updates it with contemporary views of complex adaptive systems (Kauffman, 2000), synergetics (Haken, 2000) and enactivism (Thompson, 2007). The aim is to show that the 'connecting pattern' can be reframed in terms of the co-emergence of multiple dynamical processes that occur at many distinctive time scales. A focus on nested layers of self-organising processes foregrounds histories of dynamical path selection. In short, these views explain the emergence of regularities -from experience to cultural tradition- fundamentally in a dynamical / temporal way.
The paper highlights a heuristic formulation of the complex multi-temporality of experience and cultural production. It proposes a mapping of time scales that represents not only different duration of processes but crucially rearranges time scales into distinctive temporal ranges according to levels of complexity. The paper discusses the intra-disciplinary advantages of this heuristic mapping, as well as the opportunities for inter-disciplinary conversation across humanities and science.
Rituals of refurbishment: remembering/remediating Philip Rawson's Tantra exhibition
The recent refurbishment of the Hayward Gallery prompts memories of the Indologist Philip Rawson curating the 1971 Tantra exhibition in what was then London's key art venue. Our paper remembers and remediates the gallery and the exhibits using rituals recognisable to the Indian diaspora 50 years on.
It will soon be 50 years since Rawson curated his influential Tantra exhibition in a major venue for 'cutting-edge' art. For a certain generation this was a landmark achievement and the Arts Council archive still records the enthusiastic responses of art critics, life-style commentators and alternative health advocates. However there are no installation photographs and, consequently, one is left with personal memories that, in my case, are less about the counter-culture's 'new age' than the exhibition's role in my development as an artist-curator working at the interface between experimental art and museum culture.
This paper considers what I should do about these memories. I am joined by a co-presenter, Janaki Nair who is a practice-led researcher working on Kathakali dance and tantric ritual. Together we will refashion contemporary art's readiness to 'remediate' previous generation's creative procedures (Bolter & Grusin, 1998) as an act of refurbishment based on traditional Hindu practices. The results will, we speculate, identify the Hayward as a tantric site. Furthermore, as we are using ritualistic rather than archival processes, the disassembled Tantra exhibits (a third are in the V&A collection) will take on new temporal registers that urge further consideration of the static materiality of the museum, a key motif in Rawson's posthumous publication Art and Time (2005). Thus, in our remembered/remediated version of Rawson's Tantra, stored Indian things will be repurposed to interrupt and reconfigure the perceptions of exhibition audiences in the performative 'present' of 2021.
Curating the colonial past and a Pan-African future in the making of a reputable arts center in Johannesburg, South Africa
Colonial and apartheid pasts and convivial Pan-Africanist futures are at the centre of a curational process of "filling up" an arts centre in Johannesburg, SA. The politics of time entangles with art practices and architectural visions in presenting diverse imaginations of the art centre's future.
In June 2017, Windybrow-a former theatre located between Hillbrow, Doornfontein and Berea in the inner city of Johannesburg-reopened as an arts centre. This ornamented, Victorian building from 1896 was first the home of a randlord family. It was morphed into a state theatre during the last two decades of Apartheid, partly to compete with "the theatre of struggle", Market Theatre. Post-1994, the house started to fall apart as Apartheid fell into the shadows of the new South Africa. The re-imagination of this house is thus a balancing act between a history of colonialism, elitism and Apartheid and a desired Pan-Africanist future that makes a positive mark on an area characterised by migrants coming from all over Africa as well as xenophobic attacks.
Following Tim Ingold's concept of "making", this project focuses on the re-imagination process taking shape through arts performances and crafts within the Windybrow, as well as in the architectural vision for a new building in the art centre complex. Inspired by Ranciére's philosophy of art and politics as forms of dissensus, I follow the politics of curating the past through notions of heritage both in terms of architecture and art, with elements of a desired future of conviviality. This is where the drama of the art centre unfolds, as multiple stakeholders, incl. the state, planning facilitators and the Market Theatre Foundation (now the administrators of the centre) come with diverse visions: the future lies between the neighbouring community or the reputable arts community.
The Bright Wake: facing the past in post-colonial Fiji
Why does tapa-making continue in the South West Pacific, even now? By discussing the emergence of an Oceanic theory of space-time in the post-colonial literature we may be in a better position to understand how tapa imagery came to sustain rival temporalities in colonial and post-colonial Fiji.
In developing an Oceanic theory of space-time Tongan anthropologists have asserted the right of Pacific Islanders to construct their own pasts in their own fashion, through poetry, oratory, dance or through the ongoing remaking of artefacts and imagery. The idea that one faces the past, which is linked to a cyclical or circular conception of time is, they argue, fundamental to these creative activities, as is the sense that things and imagery and subjective social experience merge into each other through semi-ritualized performance. 'What is ahead of us', Hau'ofa has written, 'cannot be ignored for it is in front of our minds' eyes, always reminding us of its presence. Since the past is alive in us, the dead are alive—we are our history'.
In late 19th and early 20th century colonial spatial controls - restrictions to movement, to ocean voyaging and ceremonial exchange (solevu) meant that circular time was significantly suppressed - with the implication that barkcloth left 'its time'. Nevertheless this was a period that witnessed the production of large, optically dazzling barkcloth 'heads' which were made and displayed by women in the interior of their houses during the performance of burial rites and rites of atonement, as a discreet side event to the main exchanges taking place in public. These displays show how barkcloth imagery came to occupy an entirely new role, by providing point of orientation - a means of deepening reality and widening of the imagination - at a distinct tangent to dominant 'outsider' formulations of space and time.
Mesogenesis as the developmental scale of craftsmanship: the case of luthiery
I will argue that craftsmanship, as defined here, is home to a temporality or a developmental scale that is characteristic of skillful action. My short discussion will include a description of such 'mesogenetic' scale taking luthiery, including my practice as well as historical cases, as examples.
In this proposal, far from referring to the execution of a profession or a line of work, craftsmanship points toward a qualitative feel for care, evaluation, risk and skill deeply intertwined with one's involvement in craft. As we know from research on this field, distinctions between abstract and concrete, mental and manual, thought and action, design and execution seem completely impertinent for those who make in situ.
Craftsmanship is understood here as an activity that involves the development of an array of skills as well as of personal and comunal experience, inspired in traditional practices and different modalities of in situ action (sprezzatura). Although emphasis is often made on crafts "products" (state approach), deferring its formation, perpetuation and gestures that are vital to it, my proposal does not seek to highlight commodities. Here, craftsmanship is described as a creative process. As an entanglement of undetermined, dynamic activities, craft involves practitioners in open, long-breath commitments, wherein they re-develop perceptual, attentional, motile, linguistic, imaginative and axiological configurations. In this sense, craftsmanship supposes exploratory qualities that repel automatisation.
Surely, this also entails becoming immersed in a community (in my case, of luthiers), where such practices and values are cultivated. Studying mesogenesis as the developmental scale of craftsmanship would allow to describe the meaningful fruits that end up being in the bundle of any longstanding tradition. In turn, the community that is involved in a craft is perpetuated without certain knowledge about its own future, since there is no a priori teleology to follow.
The tempo of care in the paper swan folding ritual
In Israel, folding paper swans is performed by migrant workers from the Philippines employed as live-in caregivers. Folding swans is an imaginative tool using the most immediate and accessible materials - paper and glue- for ordering the daily lived experienced as caregivers.
In Israel, folding paper swans is performed by migrant workers from the Philippines employed as live-in caregivers for the country's aged patients. This paper examines the practice of folding paper swans as a care ritual. Folding and caring are daily, nonverbal practices that appear to be the basic blocks of the carer and the cared-for intersubjective and sharable world. In this way, folding swans is an imaginative tool using the most immediate and accessible materials - paper and glue- for ordering the daily lived experienced as caregivers. It combines two contrasting modes of life, of elderly, dying Israeli patients and the young healthy caregivers from the Philippines, allowing them adjustment in terms of rhythm to the changing circumstances resulting from living on the horizon of death.
I argue that swan folding creates a microsystem model of adjustment through small-scale and repetitive tempo. This microsystem synchronizes a tripartite process: the swan is in the process of construction, the patient is in the process of decay, and the Filipina is in the process of self-creation. In the short term, the microsystem is sustained, but in the long term, it contains the seeds of its own self-destruction, as the patient dies, the caregiver is reassigned to another patient or deported, and the swans are gifted.
Folding paper swans becomes a micro-system that models the lived-in world and retains its connectivity to the world from which its elements derive, from eldercare. This connectivity emerges through the temporality and tempo of folding and caring practices.
Between nationalism and "creative minds": the multiple pasts of Margate, in England
Based on long term ethnographic research, this paper analyses the two different constructions of time that emerge and collide among the practices to "regenerate" Margate, in England: the past as a marketable tool to attract tourists or as connected to nationalistic memories and local routines.
Based on long term ethnographic research in Margate, a economically "deprived" seaside town in the southeast of England, this paper analyses some retired resident's reactions towards the reopening of the local traditional amusement park, Dreamland, in 2015. With a call for "creative minds", a local voluntary organisation supported by marketing strategists championed the legal battle to refurbish and reopen the park. However, some locals who are aged 60 and over soon became skeptical of the project. While following the different events and plans to refurbish and reopen the park we can see the gradual separation between a class of artists who had recently moved to the area and intended to promote a park inspired by the past to change the future of the town, and an older community that resists practices "made for other people" and who often commit to nationalistic discourses. Slowly, two different constructions and perceptions of time emerge and collide among the practices to "regenerate" the seaside town: one recasts the past as a marketable tool that fits advertising narratives and an annual calendar of events to attract international tourists; while the other envisages the past as directly connected to national narratives and personal memories experienced in people's daily routines. What the artists seem to fail to grasp is that introducing novel practices and a calendar could affect the very ways in which the retired community belong to place and experience the past everywhere - in the objects, in the houses, and around the town.
Art and human evolution: connecting the time of art with the art of time
This paper examines how the production of time in art is related to the role of art within long-term processes of human evolution. This question is addressed through the intimate connection between aesthetics, ontology and human evolution present within the philosophy of Hegel and Whitehead.
This paper aims to provide a theorization of the relation between the role of aesthetics in human evolution and the temporal dimension of the aesthetic itself. In order to understand the connection between aesthetics and time, I rely on the tradition in Western philosophical aesthetics that is concerned with the connection between aesthetic experience and human freedom. The experience of a work of art is an experience defined by freedom in the sense that it is disinterested (Kant)or a break with one's habitual way of being (Adorno). I approach the time-dimension of art through this specific form of aesthetic experience in art. What I want to focus on is the fact how this relation between human freedom and the experience of art is intimately connected with long-term historical change and ontology. This connection between long-term historical change, ontology and art is particularly visible within the tradition of German Idealism (Hegel) and the philosophy of Whitehead. Hegel has traditionally been adopted in archaeology to theorize long-term change. However, I argue for a re-evaluation of his thinking by emphasizing the central role of aesthetics and ontology in his concept of human evolution. If the direction of social theory in archaeology and anthropology is going to be ontological, I argue that it is absolutely essential to acknowledge the philopsophical tradition that unites the aesthetic with the ontological and human evolution in order to understand the connection between aesthetics and time.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.