EASA2014: Collaboration, Intimacy & Revolution

(P047)

Anthropology of art: today and tomorrow

Location M-218
Date and Start Time 31 July, 2014 at 14:00

Convenors

Thomas Fillitz (University of Vienna) email
Ursula Helg (Zurich University of the Arts) email
Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

A contemporary anthropology of art engages with discourses on art in multiple ways for a knowledge of today's art in the world and collaborations between anthropologists and contemporary artists.

This workshop welcomes contributions which address challenges for future research in these fields.

Long Abstract

Since the 1990s, the anthropology of art received several new impetuses. Predominantly, its scope is any art, making the grand divide between Western art and "ethnic art" superfluous, thereafter embracing a truly contemporary horizon. Much attention is given to collaboration which takes, broadly speaking, three major directions: (a) anthropologists are engaging in discourses with colleagues from other disciplines (art theory and art history), (b) collaborations between art practitioners and anthropologists, (c) while focusing on local researches on art and art institutions, wider trajectories and interconnections are nowadays self-evident.

Today, multiple approaches characterise its researches. Some are connected to a re-fashioned concept of world art studies, others participate in discourses about global art. In this regard, art worlds, art markets, their social actors and institutions as well as their strategies of appropriation, exclusion, and circulation are some major topics. Others follow the line of the power of images, either according to the concept of art's agency, or with the intention to unravel underlying conventions, which guide the beholder's gaze. Other approaches focus on practices and creativity, in particular on the collaboration between contemporary artists and anthropologists.

Such contemporary anthropological approaches in the visual arts have much to contribute to the dismantling of the hegemony of the Western modernity in this field and to shedding better insights on transcultural artistic trajectories. Finally new artistic practices call for a closer collaboration with anthropologists in many respects.

This workshop welcomes contributions, which address challenges and research foci for the future in the field of (visual) arts.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

The Taonga's role in the Maori economy: make art or make business?

Author: Chiara Carbone (University Roma Tre)  email

Short Abstract

During my thesis in NZ back in 2005,I focused on the textile field and on the weavers'job, paying a special attention to the fact that women attribute a symbolic rather than tradable value to the goods they produced.Weavers and theirs taonga gained value in Maori world and I tried to understand how.

Long Abstract

With this study, I explore the meaning of taonga in the Maori's economy and which path this specific exchange followed during the centuries till today, focusing particularly on the social and historic context of the New Zeeland Maori tribes.

Taonga are all those goods considered precious for their moral, social and artistic values; either are exchanged for other goods or are given as gifts during the community's ceremonies.

The act of giving is functional as it represents the prestigious of the families involved in the exchange as well as a tool to keep the peace in the community.

In the study, I explain how the role of taonga and their exchange shifted after NewZealand colonization both political and cultural, and considering how historical facts weighted on the trade-network through studies based on local anthropological sources.

An example is given by the alterations occurred to the artistic and hand-crafted textile sector.

From being artistic pieces to be donated according to solemn and rooted rituals, Taonga became goods to betraded in the market.

The merge between the act of giving and the trade system brought new meanings to exchange as either treasures or valuable goods.

Such shift is visible with the rebirth of the economical textile sector closely connected to the actual job of the weavers women of Taonga who are facing a global market with different needs compared to the one of the traditional tribe economic structure.

Download PDF of paper

Speculating the contemporary art market: gambles, trends and compositions of future

Author: Dayana Zdebsky de Cordova (Universidade Federal de São Carlos)  email

Short Abstract

Starting from an ethnography of the Brazilian contemporary art market, I place under scrutiny the speculation within this market as being an effort of calculation and construction of the future which, mobilizing different knowledge areas, directs the wagers of its actors and weaves future trends.

Long Abstract

The contemporary visual art market is closely related to notions such as gambling and trend. A gamble on a young artist from a gallery owner or collector undergoes calculations and efforts towards constructing the future. This composition can be based on readings of the present and of the recent past coupled with discontinuous lines that cast unstable bridges towards the future: the trends within contemporary art and its market. In this process, speculative insofar as it attempts to predict, manipulate and construct the future - beyond the actors' different views and subjective tastes - different knowledge/calculation tools are intertwined: history of art, economy, and sociology of art. The latter particularly interests me by bridging the thought schemes of the anthropologist and their research subjects, since both are informed and shaped by the same social theories. Some sociologists, for example, act as consultants of the art market, responding to market researches commissioned by galleries to contribute to the formation, establishment and consolidation of this market, considered to be emergent in Brazil.

This paper presents some considerations and is focused on the project Speculating Art: an ethnography of the Brazilian contemporary art market. Researches such as this one brings new challenges to the anthropology of art since contemporary art requires the construction of new analytical approaches, drawing new dialogues with subjects that shape and inform art, but also with perspectives which contemporarily shape and inform anthropology itself.

Download PDF of paper

Anthropology, art and art history

Author: Ursula Helg (Zurich University of the Arts)  email

Short Abstract

In my paper I will focus on transdisciplinary approaches to ethnographic objects, showing the dialogue of anthropology, art, and art history.

Long Abstract

A genuine interest for a possible dialogue of anthropology, art, and art history arised only in the 1990s, although there were communication links between the three fields long before. It became soon clear that transcultural approaches in art need transdisciplinary methods. Because artistic research was expanding into terrains reserved to anthropology and art history, the profile of these disciplines has faded. This is especially obvious regarding institutional critique and evaluation and interpretation of ethnographic collections in museums.

In my paper I will focus on transdisciplinary approaches to ethnographic objects, showing the dialogue of anthropology, art, and art history.

Art and gift

Author: Roger Sansi (Universitat de Barcelona)  email

Short Abstract

In the last decades, participation, collaboration, exchange relations have become a key form of practice and a polemical object of debate in contemporary art,. This paper proposes to address participative art practices from the perspective of anthropological discussions of the "gift.”

Long Abstract

In the last decades practices of participation and collaboration, have become key issues in contemporary art, both in terms of theory and practice. The debate between the defendants and the critics of participative art is increasingly polemical. On the one hand the critics defend the autonomy of art as a detached form of representation; on the other hand its defendants propose heteronomy: art as a social and political practice immersed in everyday life (see the work of Bourriaud, Bishop, Kester, Thompson, Rancière amongst others). The paper move beyond the dichotomy between autonomy and heteronomy from an anthropological perspective. Anthropology can provide a more general understanding of what constitutes "participation", "collaboration" and "exchange" beyond the field of art. Many of the discussions in art theory move around the ambiguity of participative and collaborative practices, which often take the form of gift exchanges. In this sense, anthropological discussions of the concept and practice of "gift" can open a wider understanding of these practices. This discussion of the "gift" should also include the work of critical thinkers that worked between the two fields, much before the actual outburst of participative art, from Bataille to the situationists. In general terms, this paper proposes an Anthropology that does not only engage with contemporary art through ethnographic practices, but also engages with current theoretical and political debates in art.

Engaging with global art discourses

Author: Thomas Fillitz (University of Vienna)  email

Short Abstract

I shall explore some lines of the debates about global art, as little attention has been given to the concept in anthropological studies of art. Global art refers exclusively to contemporary art. It is postcolonial, in as far as it is multiple and does not follow anymore any grand narrative.

Long Abstract

While anthropological studies of art are well incorporated within the programme of world art studies, little attention has been given to debates about global art. It is a concept which was introduced in the aftermath of the Magiciens de la Terre exhibition (1989) and the 1986 and 1989 biennials of La Havana. Global art refers exclusively to contemporary art in its present form. It is fundamentally postcolonial, insofar as it is multiple and does not follow anymore any grand narrative. Promoters of global art see a fundamental re-constitution of the global art system, and a new cartography of art in the making. Others nevertheless consider global art as another instrument of the hegemonic West-European and North American art worlds to perpetuate hierarchies and monopolies. In this contribution, I shall explore some of lines of the debates about global art.

"Look away from me!": what images mean and want in the age of digital media practices

Author: Paolo S. H. Favero (University of Antwerp)  email

Short Abstract

Centering on the world of contemporary art and documentary film this paper discusses the extent to which the meaning of images is today to be found extensively beyond the frame, hence requiring us to shift attention to context, social relations and materiality.

Long Abstract

Changing the way in which we produce, store and share images digital technologies have modified our ways of relating to and addressing the field of vision. The importance of these changes resides not only in the increased speed and size of production and distribution of images around the world (much work has been conducted on this aspect) but rather on the practices that are emerging in parallel to this. Side by side with the spread of new technologies, the last decades have witnessed to the growth of new image-making practices in a variety of different fields, from the world of (visual) art to that of documentary film, from commerce to news. In all these contexts we are witnessing a shift. Images no longer simply index or represent reality but they literally remand us to its materiality and socialness. Centering mainly around the world of contemporary art and documentary film (with a particular attention to India) the present paper aims to discuss the extent to which images seem today to ask us to 'look away from them'. The meaning of images, it will be suggested, is to be found extensively beyond the frame, requiring hence attention to questions of context, social relations and materiality.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.