Accepted Paper:

Appropriation or Possibility? Museum Ethnography at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in Postwar London.  

Author:

Lisa Newby

Paper short abstract:

Debates at the ICA about the relevance of museum ethnography for contemporary artists generated conflicting responses in postwar London. Focusing on appropriation, this paper explores how past relationships between ethnography museums and contemporary art impact exchanges in the present.

Paper long abstract:

The interdisciplinary debates that took place at the ICA in London about the relevance of museum ethnography for practicing artists were lively from the outset. This paper will introduce the diverse ways that the notion of cultural appropriation was interpreted by artists and anthropologists at the ICA in the postwar period and the impact that this had on its programme of experimental exhibitions. These debates nurtured a longstanding relationship between the ICA, the British Museum and the Royal Anthropological Institute from the late 1940s until the 1970s. This relationship was consistently marked by differences of opinion about art, materiality and representation. In turn, exhibitions at the ICA were experienced in different ways. By the 1970s the debate became increasingly fragmented as artists began to ask different kinds of questions about cultural appropriation and the relevance of museum ethnography.

This paper will examine the influential role that these historical exchanges have played in shaping the different agendas and expectations at stake in interactions between ethnography museums and contemporary art in the present. In particular, how can these histories inform a more rigorous, interdisciplinary account of the dynamics of cultural appropriation in contemporary projects?

Panel P048
The Future of Anthropological Representation: Contemporary Art and/in the Ethnographic Museum