(P094)
Creative Art/Anthropology Praxis as Revelation and Resistance
Location SOAS Senate House - S208
Date and Start Time 03 Jun, 2018 at 11:00
Sessions 2

Convenors

  • Cathy Greenhalgh (Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London) email
  • Jennifer Deger (James Cook University) email
  • Eni Bankole-Race (Royal College of Art) email

Mail All Convenors

Short abstract

Creative praxis positions anthropologists and artists within a complex matrix of agencies, material conditions, aesthetic organisation, production culture, and technology. This panel calls for practitioner-academics who mark out their own approaches, experiences, situations and settings in relation to praxis as revelation and resistance within the problematics of practice-as-research.

Long abstract

Creative praxis positions anthropologists and artists within a complex matrix of agencies, material conditions, aesthetic organisation, production culture, and technology. This panel calls for practitioner-academics who mark out their own approaches, experiences, situations and settings in relation to praxis as revelation and resistance within the problematics of practice-as-research. The panel will highlight questions of how understanding moves from tacit towards more explicit articulation (verbal, textual, or physical (embodied); how reflexive experiments with form, modes of pedagogy, creative collaboration and aesthetic organisation broaden capacities for social critique and advocacy, artistic and political citizenship; and distinguishing between practice per se and reflexive practice with intent to positively influence activity within practice-as-research.

The renewed relationship between art and anthropology is transforming what counts as knowledge (Grimshaw and Ravetz, Ingold, Schneider and Wright). Practice-led research methods reconfigure disciplinary expectations of form, process, and output—highlighting the generative potential of co-creativity, sensuous encounter and formal innovation.

People have ‘praxis needs…to become a self, maintain a self and develop a self through expressive activity’, but this ‘process is fragmented within capitalist work organisation’ (Carsprecken in Zou and Trueba, 2002: 63). In artistic and academic life we experience increasing infrastructural and institutional change. Politics and aesthetics exist in intimate mutuality; affected by positions of difference, power, and risk. While our work may enable new forms of resistance or resilience, it does so in complex, fraught and often precarious ways. But pressure may impel us to find unique paths through the gaps. We wish to recast a claim for praxis as a form of enlightenment and revelation and impetus to new modalities of thinking, knowing and resistance.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Slow Praxis, Film-making and Academe : lessons and legacies from "Cottonopolis".

Author: Cathy Greenhalgh (Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London) email

Short abstract

This paper explores reflexivity and constraint in making an ethnographic essay / documentary feature film within the higher education practice-as-research environment, developing praxis by drawing on the politics of resistance and slowing down.

Long abstract

This paper explores reflexivity and constraint in ethnographic documentary film-making within the higher education practice-as-research environment, developing praxis by drawing on the politics of resistance and slowing down. Drawing on anthropology (de Certeau, 1984), sociology (Giroux, 2016; de Sousa Santos, 2016); film philosophy (Bozak, 2012); and feminism (Basu et al, For Slow Scholarship: A Feminist Politics of Resistance through Collective Action in the Neoliberal University, 2015); I consider practices which counter overriding methods and infiltrating beliefs in the academy and industry which currently undermine collegiality and research sharing. The impetus to collaboration, diversity, mindfulness, sustainability and well-being at work sought by employability and marketing initiatives are driven by management, rather than educational objectives, and may create stress and potential paralysis. Slowing down can be productive to learning, teaching and research activity, but is a reflexive art that requires attention, choice, consciousness, craft, energy, stealth, rhythm, tactics, vigilance etc. It requires time, space and adaptability (especially if funding is slim); a polytheistic, rather than dominant singular subject approach and synthesis of ideas, discovery and experiment. The paper analyses production conditions for the author's ethnographic documentary essay feature film Cottonopolis (2018), made whilst working in academia, and the lessons and legacies it engages with. Made over several years; reflexive flow and interruption is contrasted with temporal narratives of historical Manchester, contemporary Indian handloom production, 'business instrumental logic' in higher education (Giroux, 2016), cotton industry entrepreneurial capitalism, and the fieldwork experience.

Praxis through the hand, mind, heart and eye.

Author: Pratap Rughani (London College of Communication, Univ. of the Arts, London) email

Short abstract

Drawing on documentary practice-based work with vulnerable communities (indigenous, differently abled & racially diverse groups) this presentation considers the space for serendipity and the camera's flow through the "hand, mind, heart and eye".

Long abstract

Drawing on documentary practice-based work with vulnerable communities (indigenous, differently abled and marginalised groups) this presentation considers the space for serendipity and the camera's flow through the "hand, mind, heart and eye".

This practice-led presentation considers documentary-making as a challenging model for academic enquiry through reviewing pivotal moments in thirty years of documentary practice in film and photography. It explores the tension between film praxis as open exploration and the need to deliver an unfolding narrative for an audience or follow a supported research trajectory.

Can we genuinely dare not to 'know' an outcome in the process of making and thus be influenced by what we cannot anticipate? Can Praxis be an open and connected space of exploration, discovery and epistemology - of self and other? How can acts of recording in sound and image offer new ways to uncover and re-present the world? Haptic, embodied ways of knowing draw on the spirit and intellect in impulses that determine framing, composition and a direction of enquiry. This paper investigates examples which uncover the process of filming as a process of coming to know. How provisionally can we hold new knowledge, rather than becoming confined by it? For example, when completing our work, do we dare to disagree with it? Can the lightning-rod of praxis offer a method of open enquiry?

Refugees- Whose crisis? Moving beyond 'pity and fear' to a dialectical media practice.

Author: Susan Clayton (Goldsmiths University of London) email

Short abstract

Discourses around the 'refugee crisis' have presented as fear of the alien other, or liberal pity for passive 'victims'. I present my collaborative film practice (Hamedullah The Road Home; Calais Children: A Case to Answer) as a new perspective supporting solidarity and resistance.

Long abstract

Media representations of the European "refugee crisis" of 2015-17 demonstrate disturbing patterns in the representation of refugees. Surveys demonstrate how UK coverage focuses on racist notions of the malevolent "other" with politicians harnessing terms like "swarm" and "invasion" in emotive Brexit debates. The counter-discourse, particularly since the viralled image of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi in September 2015, has conformed to its inverse - the isolated victim without agency. 

I present my collaborative film practice (Hamedullah The Road Home and Calais Children: A Case to Answer) as a new perspective and discourse on solidarity and resistance.  I describe auto-ethnographic techniques- video diaries, testimonies, self-filming - that I have used with unaccompanied refugee minors.

I explore issues of identity and representation to introduce more complex and self-reflexive tropes. I consider:

1) Their developing identities and agency; their perception of their own histories and journeys; how their networks operate to determine the choices they make; how they regard the conditions that have led them to such precarious journeys, and the actors they encounter. I reference Martin-Baro, Liberation Psychology and my video diary work with therapy teams at the Tavistock and Portman Hospital,

2) The relationship between the refugee children and us, their de facto 'hosts', calling into consideration the transactional nature of the filmic process. I argue that the material conditions of the 'Jungle' and other camps produced unique forms of organisation where conventional 'we/them' binaries and boundaries became blurred, and new discourses of solidarity and resistance were able to be articulated.

Yuta anthropology: a remix experiment

Author: Jennifer Deger (James Cook University) email

Short abstract

Assembling, curating, remixing, remediating, co-designing, cut-and-paste poetry … any of these terms seem more apt than 'writing' when it comes to describing the creation of a manuscript co-authored with my Yolngu colleagues about mobile phone art and the work of making things new.

Long abstract

Assembling, curating, remixing, remediating, co-designing, cut-and-paste poetry … any of these terms seem more apt than 'writing' when it comes to describing the creation of a manuscript co-authored with my Yolngu colleagues about mobile phone art and the work of making things new.

In the Aboriginal languages of east Arnhem Land, 'yuta' means new. 'Yuta anthropology' is the term that my friend and colleague, Paul Gurrumuruwuy, uses to describe our decade-long shared experiment with form, image, and voice. Yuta is a kind of Yolngu remix: an art of incorporation by which the new is rendered in relationship to the old; a riffing mode of co-creation fuelled by the improvisational energy and outlook of a 'yuta generation'.

Phone & Spear is a book that performs its argument: it does not simply analyse relations, it seeks to materialise and mobilize them. This result differs from collaboratively-written, community-authorised accounts of Indigenous lifeworlds: our purview is broader, our aims more inclusive, and our methods more risky.

Ours is a work of creative remediation: an experiment in cut-and-paste poetics that responds in kind to the social aesthetics given form and life in emergent art practices that use Google Play to render ancestral themes. Approaching images as affective agents, understanding vision as socially generative, and taking assemblage as a loving act of world-making, we have created a visual anthropology that goes beyond the observational; one concerned with praxis, processes, and relationships; an artful anthropology energised by repetition and juxtaposition, rather that things that stand alone.

Displacement and the Oral Narrative of a Sari: Between Life and an Exhibition

Author: Sutapa Biswas (Manchester Metropolitan University) email

Short abstract

My paper explores migratory aesthetics and trauma in relation to South Asian diasporic personal oral narratives, focusing on four of my site-specific art works (interventions) and based on empirical research working with the complexities of the sari as garment, metaphor, symbol and psychic entity.

Long abstract

This paper explores migratory aesthetics and trauma in relation to South Asian diasporic personal oral narratives. I use an art project and exhibition based on empirical research working with the complexities of the sari as garment, metaphor, symbol and psychic entity. Centring on contemporary life as explored through the spatial stories of a personal garment belonging to each individual - in this case the sari, a traditionally South Asian garb - I chart the journey of a series of different site-specific art works beginning at Pitt Rivers Museum (Oxford), and including PlugIn Gallery (Winnipeg), the Henie Onstad Kunstsenter (Oslo) and Tate Britain (London).

Through addressing the exhibited works and spatial stories within the structure of each artwork / installation, my paper explores questions of trauma, as Cathy Caruth has argued 'not merely experienced as repression or defense, but as a temporal delay that carries the individual beyond the shock of the first moment'. I consider trauma not only as a 'repeated suffering of the event, but is also a continual leaving of its site. […] By carrying that impossibility of knowing out of the empirical event itself, trauma opens up and challenges us to a new kind of listening, the witnessing, precisely of impossibility'. (Cathy Caruth, "Trauma and Experience: Introduction", in Explorations in Memory, ed. Cathy Caruth, Baltimore, John Hopkins University Press, 1995);emphasis in original. This 'impossibility' generates an art / anthropological praxis which I describe here as 'between life and an exhibition'.

Mounted by Orisa : Praxis and Representation of 'Outsider Artists' Personal Landscapes in Political Reality

Author: Eni Bankole-Race (Royal College of Art) email

Short abstract

'Outsider art' perception, is literally in a world of its own.

When anthropologists extrapolate from 'native art', whose perspective are they interrogating- the sanity of normality or the 'lunacy' of the inspired - those mounted by the Orisa with special sight into other dimensions.

Long abstract

Artistic perception, especially that of makers of so-called 'outsider' art, is often literally in a world of its own.

When anthropologists extrapolate from 'native art', whose perspective are they interrogating - the sanity of normality or the 'lunacy' of the inspired - those mounted by the Orisa who grant them special sight to see into other dimensions.

Using ethnographic and auto-ethnographic research, this presentation explores the above question among others.

According to the Yoruba, lunatics and all artists, irrespective of genre, are inspired if not possessed by Orisa, the goddesses and gods of the Yoruba pantheon. This 'possession' is what creates visionary, intentional art.

Whether mounted by gods or beset by mental health issues, the outsider artist's sensibilities exhibit the fervour of inspiration in contrast to the placidity of 'reality'.

The difference between art per se and art with intent - to exorcise one's demons, to reach rapprochement with them or to surmount them, thereby re-engaging with the politics of the 'real' world is that the intentionality generates agency. Art as therapy can inadvertently reveal much more than the artist intends while paradoxically, barring true understanding of their vision from the audience.

How then is this interface/interaction negotiated? Does the artist have a further duty to interpret their vision or should the agency engendered by praxis suffice?

Singing Songs of the Jewish Underworld of Pre-WW2 Poland: Re-telling the story of the urban poor

Author: Izabella Goldstein (The University of Manchester) email

Short abstract

This presentation is about singing a little-known pre-World War Two Jewish repertoire as a means of resisting predominant orientalist, simplified and politicised narratives which surround both pre-war and contemporary Jewish community of Poland. It includes a paper and a vocal presentation.

Long abstract

After years of silence during the communist rule, since 1989 Jewish culture has been every year more broadly presented in Poland. Today it is most visible through Jewish festivals which take place all over Poland. The most described of them is the Jewish Festival of Cracow. Although greatly popular, the festival (and its surroundings) has attracted a lot of media and academic critique. Concerns are voiced over what seems to be appropriation of Jewish culture by the non-Jewish Poles, kitsch aesthetics of many performances and duplication of stereotypes.

This presentation is part of my larger project which explores, both theoretically and through singing, songs of Jewish thieves and prostitutes from early 20th century Poland. These songs have been originally collected to bring to light the fate of many from the deprived (Jewish) communities and have been (re-)discovered only recently. In my research, through a series of concerts for Jewish and non-Jewish audiences, I explore the potential which this repertoire has for (re)telling the his/herstory of the Jewish community of Poland, beyond the predominant orientalist, simplified and politicised narratives.

Being an embodied practitioner and researcher

Author: Jennifer Leigh (University of Kent) email

Short abstract

I use an 'embodied perspective' in my work, understanding embodiment as both a state of being and an on-going process of bringing conscious self-awareness to and about the body. This brings creative methodology and questions around where we sit on the boundary between art, research and therapy.

Long abstract

Before becoming an academic I worked as a somatic movement educator and therapist. I draw on this to give an 'embodied perspective' in my work. Embodiment is a contested term, and whilst used across many disciplines it does not have a defined meaning. Sociologists use embodiment to describe how people use their bodies to represent themselves at an individual or cultural level, or argue we are all embodied because we all obviously have bodies. Whilst this predominantly constructionist view of embodiment focuses on embodied experiences and emotion, it tends to ignore the body as physiology.

An alternative understanding sees embodiment as both a state of being and a process of learning about the self. Embodiment understood in this way is an on-going process of bringing conscious self-awareness to and about the body. Understood in this sense, embodiment seeks to fully bridge the gap between the Cartesian mind-body dualism and provides a dialogue between constructionist and physiological understandings of the body.

What can this approach bring to research? In addition to innovative and creative methodology, it invites us to challenge and question the ethics around participation and co-production of knowledge. Are we equipped to support and enable our participants to deal with the raw, honest and vulnerable emotions and feelings these approaches may generate? Are we skilled enough to hold the space for them to do this, and supported enough to seek the support we need to process it? Where do we sit on the boundary between art, research and therapy?

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.