Modalities, materialities and metamorphoses
Location D
Date and Time 11th December, 2008 at 13:30


Wendy Cowling (University of Waikato)
Patrick Laviolette (Tallinn University)
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Short Abstract

This panel explores how artists are both appropriators of and appropriated by anthropological concepts and methodologies. It addresses ownership/(re)appropriation tensions that arise when artists and anthropologists contest the experiential fields of visual, material and sensorial relations

Long Abstract

The movement and appropriation of ideas and influences in cross-cultural situations has never been a one way process, particularly in our (so-called) contemporary 'post-colonial' times. While many foreign concepts and practices may have been imposed during colonial occupations, others have been appropriated and adapted by the subject group and vice versa, resulting in eclectic manifestations or admixtures. A concerted reflexion upon this process is currently obvious in the arts and in anthropology, where there is much combining and blending of genres.

The human body is intrinsic to this process - as creator, performer and as a visceral 'object' that is acted upon. All of the human senses together with diverse cultural constructions of aesthetics, tradition, time and space as well as the powerful significance of language and ritual relate to a rapid mutation in the production of local cultural representations. In various combinations, such representations are to be viewed, experienced and consumed or shunned, defaced and de-placed.

This panel shall address the contested nature by which artists are both the appropriators of, as well as the subjects of appropriation by, anthropological concepts and methodologies.

We seek papers from contributors who wish to explore how ownership and (re)appropriation are variously competed over between artists and anthropologists in the experiential fields of visual, material and sensorial relations. Who appropriates the 'ownership' of creativity, of creative discourses and of creative experience? And how do they do so? These are some of the questions that the panel will attempt to open up.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Fieldworks: Ethnographic Practices of Appropriation in Art and Anthropology

Author: Arnd Schneider (University of Oslo)

Short Abstract

This paper reviews recent artistic projects using ethnographic practice in their appropriation of other cultures, and compares them with anthropologists adopting artists' methodologies. What are the implications and are there now possibilities of developing dialogue across disciplinary boundaries?


This paper critically reviews recent artistic projects using ethnographic practice in their appropriation of other cultures, and compares them with anthropologists adopting artists' methodologies. Are these just cases of neo-primitivism, or indeed 'envy' directed at each other's disciplinary paradigms (cf. Hal Foster, 'The Artist as Ethnographer', 1995)? What are the ethical implications implied in these appropriations? And is there now a genuine possibility to develop a dialogue across disciplinary boundaries in art and anthropology for common projects?

The paper will extend on some of the arguments of Fieldworks: Dialogues Between Art and Anthropology (a conference I co-organised at Tate Modern, 2003), as well as my recent books 'Appropriation as Practice: Art and Identity in Argentina' (Palgrave, 2006), and 'Contemporary Art and Anthropology' (co-edited with Chris Wright, 2006).

Taking Time: Exploring the Interplay Between Image and Identity

Author: Melinda Hinkson (Deakin)

Short Abstract

This paper draws on recent work in anthropology and art theory to consider time as a social institution that frames engagements with images. Through cross-cultural examples, it explores the relationship between the fleeting images of modernity and identity making.


This paper draws on recent work produced at the interface between anthropology and art theory to consider the significance of time as a social institution that frames engagements with images. A central concern of the paper is to tease out what has been identified as a key characteristic of late modernity: the idea that as fleeting digital images have become a dominant source of symbolic material through which we engage with each other and the world around us, a distinctive form of personhood has emerged. Drawing on cross-cultural materials I will explore some of the ways in which time structures the production and reception of different kinds of images in different contexts, producing what might be identified as distinctive cultures of looking and visuality. John Thompson's notion of mediated intimacy will be mobilised to ask what role might a more sustained visual engagement play in a society that places a great deal of value on new, instantly accessible, and changing images.

To echo a question posed by Paul Virilio, 'in an age when our view of the world has become not so much objective as tele-objective, how can we persist in being?' Does our digital appropriation of qualitatively different kinds of images reflect something more broadly about our engagements with each other and the world around us? How does this compare with Australian Aboriginal ways of apprehending images? What can anthropology contribute to the understanding of such circumstances?

Drawing on anatomies

Author: Emily Clark

Short Abstract

This paper discusses the possibilities of the empathy existing between technology and the quantifiable body in the light of digital mediation in the medical sphere.


In March 2003 Nature Publishing Group published an article referring to a new international ambition called The Physiome Project. 'Physiome' a composite word deriving from 'phsio' (life) and 'ome' (as a whole), and the project is described as intended to provide a….'quantative description of physiological dynamics and functional behaviour of the intact organism' (Bassingthwaigthte, 2000). It is described in the same paper as a 'multicentric integrated program to design, develop, implement, test and document, archive and disseminate quantative information' and declares that the 'human physiome' can be regarded as the 'virtual human'.

In this atmosphere of visual information gained about our bodies in scientific discourse as quantitative, my question addresses the place of empathy. This paper will discuss how through examining the contemporary clinical body as visual archive, we are seen and portrayed through collections of increasingly discrete sets of data and must necessarily assume that what is of importance in this field, is not how we are but how we are virtually represented. Looking at some of the relationships between The Physiome Project and Catherine Waldby’s critique of the Visible Human Project, as well as the now predominant and urbane screening methods of the medical industry, I shall also be examining where empathy might reside in this creation of these composite representations or 'virtual' persons.

Bassingthwaigthte, J.B. (2000). Strategies for the Physiome Project. Ann. Biomed.

Eng. 28, 1043-1058.

Keywords: Computational physiology; phenomenology; empathy; ontologies; mathematical models; enframe.

Pseudo-anthropology, fetish, fake and ready-made

Author: Marcus Moore (Massey University)

Short Abstract

This paper considers the acceptance of the potential capital locked into the legacy of ready-made and replication in twentieth century art to pose a certain conflict for ownership, art and anthropology.


This paper draws upon the work of Francis Upritchard (b. 1976 NZ), a contemporary artist's appropriation of pseudo- anthropological methods. She re-fashions artefacts deliberately crudely, and, in her instance, the works become highly desired and valued art forms in today's mainstream contemporary art world. Upritchard is represented in the Saatchi and Saatchi Collection, London where she is now based, and by high profile dealers in New York. She will represent New Zealand at the 2009 Venice Biennale. Upritchard is not a trained field anthropologist or archaeologist, nor is her background in the social sciences. Rather, she takes fascination in the conventions of material exhibition in museums, and as a maker of pseudo-ritualistic and archaeological artefacts sardonically poses questions of human evolution, where creative cultural ownership becomes contentious. The work is derivative of the historical legacy of assisted and found objects and anthropomorphic representations in Dada (c. 1914-23). Further complication arises because the value of her art is dichotomous: on the one side, the appearance of specific cultural signifier in her work rests upon a fake and the covert ready-made. But, it is precisely because of this that her work is granted value. Playing with in-authenticity partially legitimises why such work operates successfully within the contemporary and corporate art markets. A wider question therefore looms as a starting point for ready-made and material culture. Does the art market's ignominious acceptance of the potential capital locked into the legacy of ready-made and replication in twentieth century art pose a certain conflict for ownership, art and anthropology?