Going beyond the contemporary? Art, anthropology, ontology 
Alex Ungprateeb Flynn (University of California, Los Angeles)
Pedro de Niemeyer Cesarino (University of São Paulo)
SOAS Senate House - S312
Sunday 3 June, 15:30-17:00 (UTC+0)

Short Abstract:

This panel examines recent calls to 'go beyond' contemporary art and responds to how artistic and curatorial practices increasingly enter into dialogue with questions of ontological multiplicity, equivocity and cosmopolitics.

Long Abstract

The art world's desire to categorise and curate points to the temporal dimensions at play in its search for the imminent. Suggestions about how to 'go beyond' the contemporary have recently culminated in calls for art's exit from "contemporary art" altogether, which begs the question, what lies beyond current paradigms of practice? Both extra-institutional artistic research and events like Documenta and the Venice and São Paulo Biennales are increasingly driven by such critiques and seek to propose alternative ethical paradigms and modes of existence, not only in ethnographic terms, but also in their engagement with so-called non-modern societies and other minoritarian social practices.

This panel is interested in how such artistic and curatorial practices enter into dialogue with questions of ontological multiplicity, equivocity and cosmopolitics. What are the encounters and possible misunderstandings derived from art and anthropology's common interest in ontological multiplicity? What is new about these convergences of interest as opposed to a mere reshuffle or appropriation of the 'Other' as a salve for occidental political and metaphysical dilemmas? Is there something that recalls an ontological turn occurring in contemporary art, thus pointing towards its redefinition and could this influence the way that anthropologists conceive of their own research practices as well as their presumed epistemological autonomy? Perhaps the term contemporary art *has* become so saturated that institutional exhibitions bear more resemblance to retrospectives than to the now. But is it inevitable that visions of the imminent will be defined through the traditional eurocentric gaze of art history?

Accepted papers:


Ivalo Frank

Paper short abstract:

As an artist filmmaker and festival director from Greenland, I will discuss examples of my work, which operates in the space between anthropology and the contemporary art world, thereby expanding our notion of the ethnographic and the arts.

Paper long abstract:

Born in Greenland in 1975 and with a MA in anthropology from Lund University, I have worked as an award-winning artist, film-maker and festival Director since moving to Berlin in 2000. A primary focus of my work is Greenlandic representation set in an international, contemporary art context.

For Art, Materiality and Representation I aim to take point of departure in my own art projects and show the effect of taking contemporary art into the field of anthropology: Greenland Eyes International Film Festival, which I initiated in 2012 in Berlin, concluded at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in 2015, thereby bringing Greenland's advantgarde into the world's most solid anthropological institution.

As a mirror image to the Smithsonian NMNH scenario, I furthermore propose to discuss the benefits of taking anthropological topics into the contemporary art world. An example being my film OPEN (2012) which features mentally ill Greenlandic inmates in high security prisons in Denmark. This film was exhibited at Louisiana Museum in Denmark, thereby bringing Inuit identity issues into the heart of the contemporary Art world.

I will argue that anthopology and art have to move closer in order to explore their full potential. We are at the beginning of this new era and in my art practise, I continuously try to incorporate knowledge from both fields in the conveyance of deeply human issues, in order to initiate the greatest effects not just within the like-minded, but across humanity in general.


Giuliana Borea (University of Essex, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Peru)


Camila Maroja (Colgate University)


Els Lagrou (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro)


Alex Ungprateeb Flynn (University of California, Los Angeles)


Pedro de Niemeyer Cesarino (University of São Paulo)