Interactions between ethnographic museums and contemporary art have been contentious - appropriative and short-lived for some, a creative and necessary way forward for others. This panel investigates the manifold possibilities, histories, and possible futures of this relation.
Ethnographic museums are no longer mere repositories of anthropological knowledge and ethnographic items, but are opening up as relational research sites. Museums around the world open their stores for (artistic) research collaborations, working towards a relational museum that itself becomes a fieldsite. At the same time, the contemporary art world has appropriated and worked with theories, discourses, and methods formerly associated with anthropological research. Encapsulated in Hal Foster's seminal article on the artist as ethnographer, artistic interest in alterity, indigeneity, and decolonisation has taken centre stage at the biggest contemporary art exhibitions, from documenta to the Venice Biennale. This panel investigates which possible other futures of this relation between ethnographic museums (and their collections) and contemporary art are imaginable, and which histories or traditions of this exchange have preceded the present situation. We welcome papers, from artistic, anthropological, and/or curatorial perspectives, that may address the following themes: comparative and/or historical case studies of exemplary exhibitions, studies of collaborations between ethnographic museums and artists beyond exhibitions, critical examinations of the role of indigeneity, identity, and cultural appropriation in artistic engagement with ethnographic museums, the role(s) of the curator as mediator, analyses of prevalent theoretical concepts (alterity, 'the ethnographic', Global South, world cultures, decolonisation). We also wish to reflect on pioneering projects investigating this relationship anthropologically, such as the TRACES project or the Humboldt Lab in Berlin.