The politics of evaluation: jurying a ceramic art exhibition in Japan
Paper short abstract:
This paper gives an ethnographic account of the jurying of a major ceramics exhibition in Japan. It examines the role of judges and prizes in creating and sustaining artistic reputations as they engage in a politics of evaluation that embraces aesthetic, social, institutional, and economic values.
Paper long abstract:
Prizes and awards are interesting anthropologically for several different reasons. For a start, they represent the outcome of an engagement with creative products on the part of people who, as jury members, are deemed to be aesthetic specialists. They are also economic instruments well-suited to achieving cultural objectives along social, institutional and ideological axes. Jurying involves an engagement with creative products, and an evaluation of their appreciative or aesthetic value, as well as of their overall worth. However, jurying has repercussions that ordinary consumer evaluations do not, for the decision to award a particular pot or other 'artwork' a prize of some kind usually reflects back upon and inflects the prize-winner's future output in one way or another. In other words, they create a tendency towards 'cumulative recognition' (or the 'Matthew effect'). This paper gives an ethnographic account of the jurying of a major ceramics exhibition in Japan. In tracing judges' selections, voting patterns, and ensuing discussions as collectively they endeavour to pick out a 'winner', the paper discusses the role of critics whose task is to develop an aesthetic vocabulary acceptable to the general public, while also acting as guides, teachers, and high priests in the evaluation of artistic quality in the ceramic art world. The paper outlines the role of prizes and awards in the creation and maintenance of relational reputation that is based on produced contrasts between competing artworks, rather than on 'inherent' aesthetic qualities.
Generating value and valuation as collaborative practice