Accepted Paper:

Commoning Anthropologically and Ethnographic Conceptualism: Intervention, Experimentation, Uncertainty  


Toby Austin Locke (Goldsmiths College)

Paper short abstract:

Social practice art opens new relationships between art and anthropology. Through notions of ethnographic conceptualism this paper will look at the commoning of an abandoned building in London as such a merging, and an experimental intersection between art and anthropology.

Paper long abstract:

It has been proposed that developments in art practice towards dematerialisation were partly paralleled in ethnographic practice through textualisations of culture by the writing culture perspective (Ssorin-Chaikov 2013). Alongside this proposal the approach of 'ethnographic conceptualism' has been put forward as a means of moving beyond these tendencies to open new forms of relationships between anthropological and art practices. Such methods would engage in active participation in the construction of the realities that they study.

This paper draws on participatory fieldwork conducted in London, based in an attempt to construct a common social centre in an abandoned building, to examine components of the proposal of ethnographic conceptualism. The anthropological and commoning practices of the research emerged as inextricably entangled, revealing them as possible forms of such ethnographic conceptualism. Paralleling proposals for situational art practice (Oliver and Badham 2013), the ethnographic method of this project had no commons to be studied; but the study was the common(ing).

Such 'commoning anthropologically' engages in experimental and interventionist practices which focus on the encounter of difference and uncertainty in an effort to explore new possible social aggregates and common worlds. Understanding the commons as sites for the experimental encounter of difference allows us to see its overlaps with anthropology, as well as proposing forms of praxis decoupled from models of politics which function through friend-enemy distinctions and idioms of war.

Panel P019
Art (and anthropology) beyond materiality and representation