This panel explores the explicit hybridities between the practice of art and the practice of ethnography. Its aim is to trace the genealogy of a hybrid that has existed since the beginnings of anthropology. It is concerned not with material manifestations but the underlying processes.
Artists and ethnographers often share a common purpose of bringing greater insight to socio-cultural processes. However, the methodologies employed are usually distinct enough to obscure these similarities. This panel seeks to explore the explicit hybridities between the two practices. As such, this panel does not aim to discuss the artist as an ethnographer or the ethnographer as an artist, but to trace the genealogy of a hybrid that has existed since the beginnings of anthropology. It explores a figure that is neither an artist nor an ethnographer but both simultaneously. It is also concerned not so much with the material manifestations of this work but the processes underlying them. Some questions to be explored are: How does this threshold between art and ethnography generate distinct forms of observation? How does it contributing to the ethnographic record? What kind of narratives does it producing? Is it opening new spaces of cultural production or expanding and/or contracting already existing fields of knowledge? How is it impacting the art world? How is it impacting the academic field of Anthropology? How is the rise of interdisciplinary approaches in academia creating new possibilities for the merging of art and ethnography? How are the art world and academia producing synergies in a world in an age of hyper-capitalism and over-connectivity? These themes and more will be explored through the contributions of anthropologists, artists and practitioners working in both realms.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
Art and ethnography as practices of analytical action
This paper discusses how ethnography and art can engage in practices of analytical action in face of new predicaments emerging on both fields. The collection from a regionalist museum near Lisbon is used to exemplify how anachronistic art works can trigger new engagements between the two disciplines
In the famous essay "On Ethnographic Surrealism" (1988) James Clifford refers to ethnography as an hybrid practice, stretching the boundaries of a scientific empirical research technique to make it grasp the artistic field and its typical early XX century attraction for the 'exotic'. For him this interaction, more than a shared empathy between intelectual fields, was the result of a "general cultural predisposition". Thirty years passed and we are still dealing with the fluidity between art and ethnography, knowing already that radical transformative predicaments have emerged on both arenas. How can this empirical research technique we call ethnography maintain its efficacy in face of an art field that expanded beyond its once recognisable limits becoming "fuera de sí" and "pósautónoma" (Canclini 2010)? And how can anthropology survive the void of generalised cultural narratives that fed for so long the ethnographic account? Is Tim Ingold's manifesto on the death of ethnography (2014) a signal of a paradigmatic closure for both practices - art and anthropology? Or are there new possibilities of engagement and encounters between the two fields that go beyond narratives of (cultural) representation creating effective devices for action (Sansi 2015)? This paper aims to discuss these possibilities in a very specific context - the Museu Malhoa - a regional museum 80 km from Lisbon where the instituciolanized art works (Groys 2017) are embed in a representational anachronism that incites for urgent intervention and action creating an exciting environment of new synergies between art and anthropology.
A shift of attention?
If there is one thing that art and ethnography have in common, is that both are concerned with observation. Discussing that commonality necessarily implies to distinguish forms, or levels, of attention. I will discuss how art and ethnography have been forging overlapping forms of attention.
For many visual artists their work constitutes an assemblage of affects, and situations, that they observe, and then elaborate, almost as ethnographers (ex. Henri Michaux). How does it happen? Does the knowledge emerging from such approaches is of any relevance for ethnography whatsoever? For some ethnographers to approach the 'field' means to equip themselves with the tools usually seen as of artists so to sharpen their capacity of seizing what they consider to escape traditional ways of doing ethnography (ex. Michael Taussig, Ruy Duarte de Carvalho). As a person with a trajectory from visual arts to anthropology, I see an overlap between these two realms of observation that (and following Tim Ingold's considerations on attention) I consider worth to discuss in terms of what might be an ethnographic attention. Going into the 'field' requires a fine-tuning of the senses, a perceptive shift, a particular form of attention, quite heterogeneous, composed of many levels of sensorial awareness. Is the 'filed' that defines the attention or the other way around? Are we in the 'field' whenever that shift occurs? My proposal is to, from specific examples across the history of art and ethnography, identify the boundaries, or the threshold, where that perceptive shift occurs and how can it be formulated in terms of what needs to happen for it to occur and what does it entail.
Recontextualizing Photographic Objects: Bridging Artistic and Anthropological Research
Interventions of photographic archives (both museological and private) made by Carrie Mae Weems and Susan Hiller reveal the ability for art-based methodologies to present new pictorial narratives; these are informed by the historical, cultural, and material nature of the photographic object.
Photography takes on a multitude of meanings and practices among many disciplines, with this text focusing on its uses within anthropological and artistic research. The interplay between these two disciplines can expand the typical uses of photographic output, going beyond the confines of either discipline. The text looks at two case studies focused on artists, Susan Hiller and Carrie Mae Weems, and their use of pre-existing photographs in their work. They are both practicing artists who create methodologies specific to the photographs they are using. In doing so, they blur the boundaries between artistic practice and anthropological inquiry. Carrie Mae Weems' photographic series called From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried reaches back to the very beginnings of photography. By creating new narratives with some of the earliest photographs made she unveils some of the negative repercussions of early anthropological images and how photographs are used to construct historical identity. Hiller's project called Dedicated to the Unknown Artists features her private collection of postcards procured in Britain over the course of many years, for which she created a method of citing and organizing according to several contextualizing factors. Examining both of these series reveals a methodological approach to using pre-existing photographs informed by artistic and anthropological frameworks. Recontextualizing photographic objects brings to the foreground concerns which perhaps exist in the blind-spot of any one discipline. The photographic object is imbued with concerns from several disciplines and this text presents one means of negotiating those concerns through interdisciplinary methodologies.
Accessing experience through images of people's bodies: an encounter between ethnography and film
In 1997 and 1998 I was involved in the making of two films by João Pedro Rodrigues. For him this was an experience in film, but for me it was an ethnographic one. This paper brings about an approach on the way of making an anthropology based on this encounter between ethnography and cinema.
In 1997 and 1998 I was involved in the making of two films by João Pedro Rodrigues ("This is my home" and "A Journey to the Expo"). The subject matter was the filming of the transnational journeys of a Portuguese family living and working in Paris, France. Along the process of filming, both the filmmaker and I were aware that we were doing two different things: the director made films, the anthropologist ethnography. To me the cross between ethnography and cinema happened later, when the writing began.
My observation of this reality included two kinds of records: my interpretations of the "field" and its cinematographic images. The reading of reality on the images gathered by a filmmaker allowed me to access new dimensions of this reality that I had not yet identified. The ethnographic interpretation was therefore subject to a second interpretive fold.
In João Pedro Rodrigues's films people are brought to mind by the unequivocally truthfulness of the images that depict their bodies. This cinematographic existence became to me also an ethnographic occurrence: from there my anthropological writing also relied on the observation of the forms those bodies acquired in the movie. The images of these bodies showed me a new path to the experiences of the people with whom I had worked.
Unravelling reality is not something only social scientists can do. Quite the contrary, those other means of perception can expose things that were inaccessible to us, but which then become part of our own ethnographic "facts".
Nailing experienced images: drawing as ethnographic work
Building of awareness is an issue the making of every artist. The same can be said about the anthropologist. Observational drawing is a tool shared by both artist and ethnographer. But what drawing are we talking about and how can we pedagogically implement it? This is the topic of this paper.
Drawings, as instruments of ethnographic production, occupy an unstable and discontinuous territory in anthropological methodologies. To a certain extent, ethnographic drawing has occupied an ambiguous place in fieldwork, especially when compared with other methods mobilized and celebrated by the discipline. However, if we look at anthropology we can say that drawings have always been present in the practice of anthropologists: some depict reality while others use it to question this reality - that is, drawing objects, people, rituals, etc., as a means of understanding them.
These last few years, several texts reclaim the use of drawing as an essential tool for the questioning of reality, highlighting the need to empathically reach to the world and its images. Drawing seems to be the accurate way to do this - as it mobilizes the observer's whole body in its making.
Within the context of Summer School courses in Lisbon's NOVA FCSH University, a workshop was thus held in September 2016 and a second one in July 2017. Along with anthropologists Sónia Vespeira de Almeida and José Mapril, the experiment happened. The academic context required an articulation between teachers of anthropological training and others that were more familiarized with the use of drawing and its instruction. Having in mind that the teachers of the department of Anthropology are not experts in this area, my role was to organize a strategy that was able to capture, within the week's work, the main issues of a practical (but ethnographically concerned) approach towards drawing.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.