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Accepted Paper:

Exhibiting the Field. An Ethnographic Experiment with Artists, Designers and Boundary Objects  
Francisco Martínez (Tampere University)

Paper short abstract:

Exhibitions are usually understood and used in anthropology as representation techniques, here I propose and describe the use of displays as devices for ethnographic inquiry, for political concern and for learning epistemic generosity.

Paper long abstract:

This paper examines an untapped potential for exhibitions to act as key experimental devices and fields of knowledge-in-the-making. It describes the preparations of and reactions from the show ‘Objects of Attention’, in which ten artists were invited to re-design an ordinary object into a political question, and two designers had to learn how to translate our ideas into materials. A series of field arrangements were constructed, materially heterogeneous and with a variety of forms, establishing particular kinds of relationships and of knowledge.

As a result, my fieldwork was intoxicated by the ways of doing of very different participants, impelling me to un-learn part of my disciplinary grammar, and my counterparts to practice epistemic generosity. Moreover, I was often compelled to act as an artist and as a designer myself (not just as a curator), entering a field in which I felt unqualified, and facing the limits of my knowledge and skills.

During the process, not only I faced the limits of my own ability to participate in the making of the exhibition, but in some cases, participants placed me at the periphery of what was going on despite my role as curator-ethnographer. Our experimental collaboration was indeed not free of tension and disagreement, facing diverse and competing relational obligations and responsibilities.

Accordingly, it also discusses the skills of collaboration in contemporary art, design and gallery curation, and how they make tangible different (working) definitions of knowledge, objecthood and amateurism, which themselves generate moments of surprise, material intensity and also tension.

Panel Speak22b
Art, response, and responsibility II
  Session 1 Wednesday 31 March, 2021, -