Accepted paper:

Practice, Process, Performance (refuse, art, artefact)


Emily Stokes-Rees (Syracuse University)
Matthew Zeke Leonard (Syracuse University)

Paper short abstract:

Examining an exhibit of hand-made instruments, this paper highlights possibilities in breaking down the art/artefact dichotomy. Presented as a dialogue, we draw attention to the potential of collaborative, cross-disciplinary work, exploring shifting boundaries in curating art and anthropology.

Paper long abstract:

Presented as a dialogue between two professors who are also committed practitioners: a curator and a designer/maker, this paper takes as its premise that, "the art/artefact dichotomy remains with us, denying many objects comfortable homes in art, anthropology, or history museums. Moreover, it runs the risk of alienating the individual viewer within a mass of academic debris, simultaneously blurring aesthetic appreciation and proper contextualization." Through the discussion of an exhibit of hand-made instruments previously displayed exclusively as art objects, and re-interpreted (in an art gallery) from an anthropological perspective, we attempt to destabilize perceived divisions between art and ethnographic museums. In other words, distinct from these objects' previous lives as 'art' and 'craft', this exhibition focused on the fluidity of practice, process, and performance, creating a hybrid aesthetic/ethnographic appreciation that we hoped might complicate traditional boundaries. This dialogue also considers the evolution of curatorial practice, focusing particularly on what we perceive as a rapidly growing interest in interdisciplinary projects that blur boundaries between art, anthropology, and other disciplines. Moreover, it addresses the idea of 'object-as-critique', in which the exhibited instruments unintentionally provoked an intense questioning of some of the ideologies and biases embedded in the display: How can we move towards more holistic representations, collaborative approaches, and away from the fetishization of traditional art (and ethnographic) collections? This discussion thus foregrounds the 'conversation' of curation - between curator and designer/maker, objects and space, and between art and anthropology, pointing to the transformative power of objects, independent of their disciplines of origin.

panel P105
Museums and Anthropology: Colonial and post-colonial collections seen through museums, art and history