Art with/for the community: anthropological perspectives
Location Senate House South Block - Room G5
Date and Start Time 01 Jun, 2018 at 11:30
Sessions 1


  • Filipa Ramalhete (Universidade Autónoma de Lisboa) email

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Chair Helena Elias (University Lisbon)

Short abstract

This panel addresses researchers who would like to present either anthropological analysis on communitarian artistic projects or present case-studies where anthropologists played an important role in these artistic processes.

Long abstract

In the last few decades, communitarian projects often include artistic practices. This is particularly true in where territorial and cultural perspectives are fundamental to local development.

This panel launches a challenge for researchers who have developed, either as active team members or as theoretical researchers, anthropological analysis regarding artistic practices with local communities.

The main objectives are: 1) to increase the knowledge on the role of the anthropologists in these artistic practices; 2) to strengthen the importance of communitarian artistic processes as an anthropological theoretical field of analysis.

We specially welcome papers crossing different disciplinary frameworks, allowing diachronic analysis, comparing traditional and contemporary values, demonstrating the impact of territorial based interventions, addressing artistic practice as ethnographical resource and portraying different social and economic contexts.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Collaboration and Visibility: An Anthropological Analysis of Community-Based Art Practice in Turkey

Author: Ayşe Güngör (Technische Universität Berlin) email

Short abstract

This paper illustrates the impact of community-based art practices on local communities by focusing on the cases from contemporary Turkish art scene. In this context, it aims to shed new light on the potential of anthropological analysis of community-based art projects.

Long abstract

After the 1990s, the number of art fairs and biennials in Turkey has not only increased but also with the involvement of art world institutions in the art scene, artistic practices have been transformed. This transformation resulted in a growing interest in inter-disciplinary works that inspired contemporary artists to engage with ethnography as method in different ways. Some of these practices are community-based that focused on creative participation (e.g. Oda Project, PiST), some artists aimed to portray the community with video interviews or by documenting their rituals (e.g. Kutluğ Ataman, Köken Ergun), or some others recorded issues about the struggles in Turkey (e.g. Artıkişler Collective). In all cases, these socially-engaged art practices from Turkey deal with the notion of otherness, as these closed communities are from different social identities or from neighborhoods located in the outskirts of the big cities in Turkey. I aim to illustrate the significance of working with a community as an artist in this context, as artists have the potential to raise awareness to the community's struggle; generally by making them visible with the artistic process. My paper focuses on this interaction between aforementioned artists and the communities from an anthropological perspective, in order to demonstrate the effect of artistic practices on local conditions. In conclusion, this project, by examining this interaction, sheds new light on the potentials of anthropological analysis of community-based art projects through the cases from contemporary Turkish art scene.

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Visualising a minority language community? Visual art and Community Festivals in the rural Connemara Gaeltacht (2003 - 2013)

Author: Nuala Ní Fhlathúin (Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology) email

Short abstract

The field of Irish Studies has focused on representations of the West of Ireland as signifying a romanticised Irishness. My research complicates this by looking at Visual Art production in the West of Ireland in the bilingual context of community arts festivals in the rural Connemara Gaeltacht.

Long abstract

An established body of literature in the field of Irish Studies has focused on images of the West of Ireland in a postcolonial context, with scholars such as Catherine Nash, Luke Gibbons and Yvonne Scott producing compelling arguments around the significance of images of the West in the fields of visual arts and literature. However the discourse surrounding these images in the visual and academic language of the mainstream Irish art world has largely focused on representations of the West as signifying an idealised and romanticised Irishness. My research extends the scope of this discourse, using ethnographic methodologies to examine Visual Art production in the West of Ireland in the light of specific local cultural contexts, in this case the bilingual context of community based arts festivals in the rural Connemara Gaeltacht (* The term"Gaeltacht" refers to an area where Irish is in use as a community language). Specifically, in my project, I will be looking at the activities of a multidisciplinary community arts festival in the Coisfharraige coastal area, Féile Pléaráca (2003-2013) in order to bring to the fore complex roles played by image-making activities within a nuanced Gaeltacht context. In doing so I draw on literature from the fields of Irish Studies, Place-based Art Studies and Festival Studies to argue that tensions around language loss and identity on both a regional and national level have strongly influenced the production of visual art in the Gaeltacht area.

Artistic practices in communities: forging new vocabulary to think about the world

Author: Diana West (CRIA-FCSH UNL) email

Short abstract

The emergence of artistic practices with communities is a way of producing social narratives based in intimate encounters and shared artistic experience. The creation of a new vocabulary expands ways of belonging and being in the world.

Long abstract

Artistic practice in communities in Portugal has gained much visibility in the last decades. The positive impacts of these practices in reducing social exclusion has been acknowledge and increasingly supported by municipalities, non-governmental organizations and cultural and artistic institutions. In this presentation I discuss the work of two artistic projects developed in the peripheral areas of Lisbon studied during my fieldwork between 2014 and 2015. The aim was to analyze the perceptions about the collaborative work between professional artists and the groups engaged in the artistic process. To the artists involved, the reach to the communities as a site of inquiry and reflection came from a desire to understand and/or interfere with social reality. For both artists and community collaborators, to participate in this process allows the development of "vocabulary" to "talk about" and understand "the state of the world". The forging of new vocabulary and common language puts these practices in a position of imminence as the anthropologist Garcia Canclini puts it by experimentation of new ways of being together and possible outcomes. In the global contemporary scenario were grand narratives that encompass social reality come short, the work of these artists opens a space of action, opportunity and hope from small scale experiences that contributes to a reconciliation or re-enchantment with the world. With these examples I defend that an anthropological perspective is important in order to amplify the way this processes are explained, expressed and understood.

Communal Identities and Societal Interactions: Artistic Practices in Local Communities of Medieval China

Author: Junfu Wong (University of Cambridge) email

Short abstract

This paper attempts to explore how local communities served as a platform for community members' interaction and manifestation of their identities, both individual and communal, through artistic practices, in Northern Wei (CE 386-582) China.

Long abstract

This paper attempts to explore how social interactions in local communities were manifested through artistic practices in Northern Wei (CE 386-582) China. During the medieval period, individuals in local communities were bonded to greater collectives by participating in the erection of stone stelae which served as religious centers of the communities. Not only religious activities were carried out around the stelae, many social activities, such as interaction among community members who belonged to different ethnic and social groups, also took place in the form of stele erection and practice. Furthermore, such an artistic monument, usually placed at the major crossroads of local communities, identified by the titles and duties of the patrons as community members, as well as by their ethnical and regional symbol. It is within this context this paper attempts to reveal how such an artistic practice of stele erection can help create the integrity of the community and allocate individuals to the broader societal collective. It will discuss how stelae served as territorial and identical indicators for the members of a community, which created a platform for social interaction. Furthermore, it will adopt a functional symbolic approach to explore the artistic representations on stelae, in order to show how these emblems inherited the conventional way of creating cultural and regional identities. Finally, built upon which it will discuss how these emblems influenced the artistic practices of projecting identities in local communities around the same region in modern time.

Developing Collaborative Artistic Practices with local communities: insights from Portuguese case studies

Authors: Sergio Vicente (Faculty of Fine Arts of Lisbon) email
Maria Assunção Gato (Dinamia-CET /ISCTE-IUL) email
Filipa Ramalhete (Universidade Autónoma de Lisboa) email

Short abstract

The paper presents two experiences of collaborative artistic practices in Portugal, focusing on the methodological approach to each case and on the role of the anthropologist in the context of a multidisciplinary team working with local communities.

Long abstract

The multiple social transformations witnessed by the Portuguese society in the last decades - driven by processes of democratization, decolonization, urbanization, Europeanization, globalization and population mobility – result in an eclectic territory, where practices and policies promoting communities’ participation, once inexistent, are increasing.

In this context, artistic practices are one of the most common strategies in local interventions regarding the strengthening or the creation of identity ties between the community and its territory. However, regardless the quality of the artistic work and the communities’ fulfilment with the processes, most practices don’t follow a clear methodological school of practice. In spite recognising that the inherent diversity of each territory, community and team imply unique approaches, it is important to contribute to the construction of a methodological and theoretical field on collaborative artistic practices.

This paper presents experiences of artistic co-production in two different contexts (social housing neighbourhood in the Lisbon Metropolitan Area and an ancient mining village, in the South region of Alentejo). In both cases, the main goals were to promote processes of active citizenship and reinforce territorial based identities.

Having as a starting point the teams’ backgrounds (anthropology, sculpture, spatial planning), the first project designed a methodological approach, developed together with the community, for the construction of a three-piece sculpture. The success of the first project led to the second one, which is now being implemented. We will specify the methodological approach to each case and focus on the role of anthropologists within a multidisciplinary team, working with local communities.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.