The use•ful•less•ness of the experiment
Anthropology and the assembly of the unexpected
Second #Colleex Workshop
4–6 July 2019, Cieszyn, Poland
Organization: Political Critique (Cieszyn), Institute of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology, University of Silesia (Cieszyn), Institute of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology (University of Warsaw)
Supported by European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA)
Downloadable as a PDF
See abstracts below
Day 1 | Thursday 4/07
16.00-18.15 Thursday afternoon session
Kacper Pobłocki, Action research in urban activism as experiment
Eeva Berglund & Hanna Kaisa Vainio, Walking and talking in Helsinki: a method in search of a problem
Ronja Mikoleit & Marion Mangelsdorf, Valuing nature: Epistemic collaboration and ethnographic experimentation in Marteloscopes
Anna Ptak, Fieldplay
Guy Julier, 60 Minutes in Smart Kalasatama: Six experimental performances within an experiment
18.15-18.30 Coffee break
18.30-20.30 (approx.) Thursday late afternoon session
Natalia Romik, The nomadic experiments in the public realm
Anna Rumińska, The “CLUE” of the Placemaking Food Experiment. Architecture, Anthropology and Gastronomy as Tools in Spatial Diagnose and an Influence
Katarzyna Depta-Garapich, Comfort Zone (One Hundred Sheep)
Day 2 | Friday 5/07
9.30-11.00 Friday morning session
Thomas Binder, On-going unfolding of beginnings: The usefull-less-ness of experiments in the (co-)design laboratory
Tomás Criado, A pedagogy of the limit? On the anthropological use·ful·less·ness of teaching experiments
Tomasz Rakowski & Kuba Szreder, When the Peasant Monument Meets the Museum: Mapping Transfers, Following Tensions
Hermione Spriggs, Traps as Diagrams and Diagrams as Traps
11.00-11.15 Coffee break
11.15-13.30 Friday late morning session
Francisco Martínez, Collaborations, Collisions, Collutions. Experimental Departures from Everyday Objects
Katarzyna Maniak, Magdalena Zych, The Backstage of Approaching Difficult European Heritage. Art, Ethnography and Horizon 2020
Katarzyna Grzybowska, Truposznica (A Corpse Carrier) – bystanders’ heritage in a series of actions of the Curatorial Collective
Bernard Müller, The archaeological excavations of the « Déjeuner sous l’herbe à l’occasion de l’enterrement du tableau-piège » as a Potential Anthropology Workshop
Ofri Lapid, On the Surface of Text: A Reading Session with Props
13.30-15.00 Lunch break
15.00-16.45 Friday early afternoon session
Francisco Martínez & Alyssa Grossman, Parasitic Reading
Ewa Klekot, Flying Kites Workshop
Małgorzata Markiewicz, Ethnographical Mystification
16.45-17.00 Coffee break
17.00-19.30 Friday late afternoon session
Maica Gugolati, Floating herstories: Deconstruction of a tropical pictorialism.
Iza Desperak, Ethnography of an experiment: Artur Żmijewski and his “Repetition” of Zimbardo Stanford Prison Experiment
Martin Büdel, Ethnography as experimental aesthetic practice – Learning from Harun Farocki
Zoe Aiano, Reactive Filmmaking – A Case Study of the “Wild Pear” Group in Serbia
Day 3 | Saturday 6/07
9.30-11.00 Saturday morning session
Inga B. Kuźma & Alicja Piotrowska, Inclusion through action – from experiments (with art in the background) to practice
Wesam Hassan, Navigating the new paths for Socialization for HIV positive mothers’ in Egypt Post 2011
Marcelo Rossal, Women users of cocaine base: dialogues about love, desire, and autonomy
Justyna Otwinowska, Experience of experiment. Ethnographer in a problem theatres
11.00-11.15 Coffee break
11.15-13.30 Saturday late morning session
Elisa Taber, Another Word for Literature
Juan Javier Rivera Andia, Indigenous rituals facing extractivist ruination as a subverting collective experiment on value and ownership. An Andean example.
Maria Debinska, Experimenting with non-humans
Christy Spackman, Laboring in Smell’s Shadow
13.30-15.00 Lunch break
15.00–17.00 Saturday afternoon session
Piotr Cichocki, From Zolozolo to Spotify to Cieszyn. Sound ethnographies of spaces
Kuba Szreder, Sebastian Cichocki & Tomasz Rakowski, Arctic Circle, or collective exercises in art beyond art
Hermione Springs, The Anthropology of Other Animals
17.00-17.15 Coffee break
17.30- Open ending
Eeva Berglund & Tomás Criado, Remaining in confusion – A thematic conversation for everyone about/for straddling the use·ful·less·ness and confusion of experiments
Social event / Dinner / Party
P= paper | F= format (displayed in order of presentation)
Action research in urban activism as experiment (P) | 4/07 afternoon session
Kacper Pobłocki, EUROREG, University of Warsaw
The paper develops Marshall Sahlins’s concept of ‘reciprocity of the made and the true’. It harks back to the 18th century philosopher Giambattista Vico who stipulated that ‘what humans have constructed they can know truly, as opposed to natural things that are the work of God and are his alone to know.’ Although this point defies our common sense it actually is congruent with developments in 20th century science. ‘The more the natural scientist discovers about things,’ noted Sahlins, ‘the less such things are like anything in human thought or experience.’ Thus ‘objective’ knowledge of the material world is subject to surprisingly frequent revisions. ‘Subjective’ bodies of knowledge on the other hand have remained surprisingly stable. I take this point further and describe the case in which a field of anthropological research was actually engendered by the researcher. I describe my involvement in the establishment and growth of urban movements in Poland and show how “action-research” can be understood as a knowledge-generating
experiment. I argue that the values of “public” or “engaged” anthropology (at home) is derived not from the political consequences of researchers’ taking a stance on an issue or lending legitimacy to local claims but actually is a very viable research strategy that allows us to generate better scientific knowledge and a deeper understanding of the problem at hand.
Walking and talking in Helsinki: a method in search of a problem (P) | 4/07 afternoon session
Eeva Berglund, Aalto University, Department of Design, Helsinki & & Hanna Kaisa Vainio, Community artist, Helsinki
As questions of socio-environmental change and efforts to decentre human experience have entered qualitative research in recent years, many people and research fields have embraced walking as a good and notionally “experimental” way forward [sic]. In this paper I reflect on the use·ful·less·ness of walking in research generally, but focus in particular on projects involving walking together in familiar landscapes where impending unwanted transformations are causing anxiety, often as part of finance-fuelled but also creativity-friendly urban politics. The examples are from a handful of actions, paid and unpaid, that I have done in recent years with artist Hanna Vainio in our home town of Helsinki.
Walking is almost always an unremarkable part of ethnographic research and it has long been a key aspect of environmental art. Its recent prominence across many social sciences, particularly geography, anthropology and the built environment fields, invites comment. Cynically one can see it is a solution to a number of problems in contemporary research practice, notably that it produces audit-friendly outputs, and it appeals to a turn towards art and affect in urban politics.
This use of unusual methodologies should be noted, particularly against the background of economic hardship among researchers. However, we also highlighting other uses and aims. Our walks could be thought of as instrumental if not reducible to the metrics of a finance-oriented public culture. They fit well in Helsinki’s political context, which is seemingly obsessed with the need to “solve problems” but also “have fun”. We found walks were of use in attracting people into Helsinki’s forests and in encouraging people to explore familiar landscapes in the company of strangers, for instance. But beyond claiming that we can and do exploit the multisensorial quality of walking to further learning within and without academia, we believe our walks, though small in impact as conventionally measured, achieved very much. We want to make use of the workshop CfP to claim that what we have done has “opened up” venues for methodologies like walking that insist on their own value outside of the problem-solving, audit-friendly performance of “interesting” urban projects.”
Valuing nature: Epistemic collaboration and ethnographic experimentation in Marteloscopes (P) | 4/07 afternoon session
Ronja Mikoleit, Albert-Ludwigs University Freiburg & Marion Mangelsdorf, Centre of Anthropology and Gender Studies Freiburg
What is the value of a tree, or a forest? How can we understand knowledge practices? What role do incorporated knowledge and affects play in ethnographic situations? Using the so-called Marteloscopes (1 ha silvicultural training sites in which all trees are measured and assigned economic and ecological values) as a creative fieldwork device, we experiment with collaborative research formats which cut across different professional knowledge cultures, disciplines and research traditions in the group of researchers (from anthropology, sociology, forestry, economics, arts/filming), as well as in the group of other participants (students, foresters, ecologists, trainers). In this field, different human and non-human actors engage intermingling layers, creating complementary as well as dissonant perspectives. Inspired by the filmmaker Trinh T. Min-ha’s approach of “speaking nearby, not about”, which foregrounds the process of visualization itself, one emerging outcome of this collaboration are i-Docs – interactive non-linear web-documentaries. They portray and create simultaneously the entanglement of bodies, biodiversity, economics, affects, atmospheres, specific natural elements, and recording and tablet devices in movement and thus follow a sensory ethnographic strategy. Through this format, the camera, the filmer and the person moving through the i-Doc become accentuated as key actors. This form, which is set in dialogue with more traditional research formats such as group discussions, interviews and questionnaires, emphasizes the researchers’ positions as participants in the social worlds themselves and supports the notion of knowledge, action and abilities as not attached to individuals, but created through several (intermedial) intra-actions inside and outside the forest.
Fieldplay (P) | 4/07 afternoon session
Anna Ptak, Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art
As a contemporary art curator I have come across and worked with a number of artistic practices which assemble specific environments – experimental settings (both generating the unknown and controlled with a method at the same time) in order to investigate the nature of sociality. I would like to propose a case study of one of such practices, proposed by a Japanese collective hyslom. The group appropriates from ethnography the idea of a fieldwork, an extensive, long-term data collection by the means of personal exploration and experience, but calls its practice a fieldplay. For a period of 10 years they have been practicing physical exercises and improvising choreographies on the territory of the suburban Osaka. Throughout the time the area has been transformed from a mountain forest into the housing estate. In my presentation I would like to analyse hyslom’s practice as an experimental ethnography, one that is dealing with following issues. Firstly, the problem of precarity – lack of stability inscribed in the future of the artists, workers and other living creatures encountered by this exploration. Secondly, the problem of translating this experience in the visible form. I would like to argue, that “fieldplay” as a method could be a response to them. By refuting the productivist idea of (useful) work of fieldwork, a (useless) fieldplay becomes both form of resistance to the dominant narratives (such as urban development, animals’ exploitation, labor’s place in capitalism) and embodies emergent forms of life beyond them. The concepts such as Michael Taussig’s “bodily unconscious”, Anna Tsing’s “encounter based collaboration” and Raymond Williams’ “structure of feeling” will be my aides in elaborating the argument.
60 Minutes in Smart Kalasatama: Six experimental performances within an experiment (F) | 4/07 afternoon session
Guy Julier, Aalto University
In recent years, urban Finland has become a prime destination for investment funds through property development. These investments into housing complexes, office blocks and public infrastructure are relatively long-term and slow-moving. Against this is a rhetoric of efficiency that is played out through temporal and environmental understandings as points of experimentation. Currently under development is an area of Helsinki called Kalasatama. It is planned to function as a ‘smart city’ neighbourhood that, publicity boasts, will be so efficient that its 20,000 new residents will ‘gain an hour a day’. A large part of its promotion has focused on the enrolment of its first 3,000 residents into participatory experiments to develop its digital devices and infrastructural services. Within a performance, I present the results of six 60-minute performances in Kalasatama in which I explore temporal understandings against distinct notions of value. These include: an hour-long ‘derive’ in Kalasatama’s shopping centre; a ‘sprint’ research of the district’s investors and labelling of buildings; a calculation of an hour’s financial investment in Kalasatama according to different wage levels; 60 minutes fishing. Each performance explores the possibilities and limits in engaging the researcher into different temporalities of Kalasatama’s cultural political economy and the financialization processes. How do the symbolic meanings that are generated through place marketing, planning, urban design and architecture play out with an extra (useless?) hour in a day? What use-value does an hour have, in any case?
The nomadic experiments in the public realm (F) | 4/07 late afternoon session
Natalia Romik, Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL
In this open format I would like to discuss my cross-disciplinary research practice, in which I combine methods of nomadic architecture, critical art, and public interventions in order to investigate and revive the urban memory of post-Jewish architecture. I will present JAD– a nomadic “war machine” with which I travelled in the region of Silesia to unearth the hidden histories of former synagogues, mikvehs and Jewish schools, Hurdy-Gurdy – a performance in vernacular, urban history, a mirrored box of a portable archive with which I walked through the former ghetto in Częstochowa, and the Nomadic Shtetl Archive – a mirror-covered nomadic archive, with which we travelled through the formerly-Jewish-currently-Polish small towns of South-Eastern Poland, not only distributing the knowledge about lost, Jewish legacies of the towns we visited, but also opening the archive to host the untold stories of their current inhabitants. I would like to combine my presentation with a walk through the formerly Jewish properties in Cieszyn, organising a site-specific iteration of my Hurdy-Gurdy performance.
The “CLUE” of the Placemaking Food Experiment. Architecture, Anthropology and Gastronomy as Tools in Spatial Diagnose and an Influence (F) | 4/07 late afternoon session
Anna Ruminska, Studio Artecubo
My application concerns experiments in public spaces, both physical and mental. Combining physics and mind operations, both urban and rural societies influence the public spaces, and themselves. I would like to show a placemaking experiment in a CLUE formula (a part of benchology theory of mine), which I develop as my method of both, diagnosing and influencing the public spaces, in mind and in physical environment. I use the placemaking approach partly in opposition to the non-places theory by Marc Auge. In my research this strongly anthropological theory is flanked by spatial (or architecture) perspective, mainly of Jane Jacobs and Christopher Alexander. In my research, I develop two types of proxemic approach, acting as an architect cultural anthropologist, in the public spaces and the food studies. I am also tending to empower the public spaces experiments with the Edward Hall’s perspective. The Diagnose (reffering to exploring) and the Influence (reffering to designing) are my basic activities that have the spacial imput. I let the spaces’ users show their reception of spaces (using a technique of a mental mock-up in 3D), and I also ‘use’ the spaces’ users to modify the public spirit of the spaces – the spirit considered as a spaces’ publicity and reception. Physical public spaces, as well as mental public spaces, considered as the public spaces transcripted within the mind mapping process, is often considered as a proper teritory of diversed experiments. Intentional arrangements are made based on spacial opportunities. However, in these arrangements, the space itself rarely plays a role of an actor-network factor in terms of Bruno Latour concept. I usually show it does a lot. What is it for? Simply to empower the users with the proper knowledge and skills to utilize them in their spacial arrangements and experiments, especially those that incorporate food-in-public formula, as a technique and a tool of social integration. For this I involve the Slow Food philosophy (Carlo Petrini’s worldwide movement for the protection of biodiversity and climate). I treat an unexpected items as food (uncultivated food; culture-versus-nature binar approach). Then I generate a spacial and mental change, which usually turns to be also unexpected. This combination of architecture, anthropology and food study issues brings interesting results of social chance in the public environment.
Comfort Zone (One Hundred Sheep) (F) | 4/07 late afternoon session
Katarzyna Depta-Garapich, Slade School of Art, University College London
“One Hundred Sheep” is an ongoing performative project originally inspired by the relationship between humans and animals, and man’s dependence on the animal in his/her care in particular; from being a source of food to being a source of warmth and comfort. The work dwells on ‘a mobile border within the living man’, to use Giorgio Agamben’s words, a caesura between man and animal. “One Hundred Sheep” started as a process based intervention in which I worked through 100kg of raw wool during a residency at Tatra Museum in Zakopane (February 2019). Over time, wool has changed from a mere material to shelter and finally to an object resembling clothing garment. It became an object of uncertain destiny, neither useful nor work of art, yet displayed in the gallery among artworks. That uncertain (borderline) status of the object and its usefulness is the emphasis of the body of work I’m currently developing – continuing to work with wool from the Tatra Mountains to make a series of cocoons/hammocks. For “The use·ful·less·ness of the experiment” I propose to create a “Comfort Zone”, a physical space with woollen hammocks, seats and blankets I make; a space for quiet reflection as well as for informed discussion. The proposed intervention is meant to ask questions but not provide answers and it aims to challenge the position that usefulness must be tested empirically. The work, as well as a space for discussion, can be assembled anywhere – inside the buildings or in the park. Its mobile qualities are underlining the experimental nature of the work and unexpected outcomes it may provoke.
On-going unfolding of beginnings: The usefull-less-ness of experiments in the (co-)design laboratory (P) | 5/07 morning session
Thomas Binder, Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Design
In this paper design experiments are figured as an ongoing unfolding of beginnings in which an excess of usefull-less-ness is performed. Taking a maker festival in a suburban community center and library in the Tingbjerg neighborhood of Copenhagen as an example the point will be made that there is no ‘outside’ to these experiments thus no completion or accomplishment beyond the experience of the agency of the engagement, yet it is claimed that such situated unfoldings of possible worlds within reach are essentially what contemporary design can offer.
In design a blurring and contraction of here-and-there and now-and-then has brought the methodology of design closer to that of anthropology. In anthropology the engagement with the field has been foregrounded as a collaborative encounter in which a particular past and present is invoked by the coming together of the anthropologist and the people in the field. This encounter involves a prototypical theorizing that can expand and enrich the ethnography as it is becoming methodologically inventive drawing on approaches from design and art (Marcus, 2016). Ingold has even suggested that anthropology is the unfolding of this encounter in correspondences of participant observation between the anthropologist and her/his collaborators as these produce an altered here-and-now substantiated through collaborative making (Ingold, 2008).
Similarly the conception and making of proposals in design is deeply entangled with a situated trailblazing of estrangement and familiarization across multiple sites. And resonating with the point made by Ingold that the correspondences of the field encounter is anthropology the design experiment becomes the proposal as a performative actualization of potentialities in the here-and-now (Binder, 2016).
A pedagogy of the limit? On the anthropological use·ful·less·ness of teaching experiments (P) | 5/07 morning session
Tomás Criado, Institute of European Ethnology, Humboldt-University of Berlin
In this presentation, I would like to inquire on a series of teaching experiments I have been conducting in the last years. Since 2015, in different teaching positions I have been engaging in (a) experiments in the anthropological teaching of architects (working from 2015 to 2018 at TU Munich’s Department of Architecture), and more recently, in attempts at (b) experimenting with the teaching of anthropologists (working since 2018 at the Institute for European Ethnology, HU Berlin).
I draw on a vocabulary around experimentation to describe them, because the main attempt of both explorations has been to create a controlled space to speculate upon relevant questions regarding these distinct bodies of disciplinary practice: trying to create different pedagogical situations and requirements so as to make both architects and anthropologists aware of the fraught forms of contemporary knowledge politics and the unfathomable contours of more-than-human agency.
The centrality of these issues stems from my ethnographic and activist engagement in the field of inclusive design, which have made me increasingly concerned with searching for ways to ‘go beyond the limit’ of the body of the designer or the ethnographer. In a way, my attempt has been to experiment with what I might address as ‘a pedagogy of the limit’: creating situations to explore beyond the boundaries of phenomenological understandings of the body and sensing (premised on human-centric and direct-access notions of perception).
Hence, in different courses I have sought to translate actor-network theory’s main tenets around technical democracy and distributed agency into different multi-sensory experiences and hands-on exercises relating at the hinges of unrelatability, thus engaging in an ongoing conceptual and methodological re-tooling. In the presentation, I will describe a couple of them in detail, as well as pondering on their use·ful·less·ness. For this, I will pay attention to two main pedagogical registers: (1) learning to relate–experiential and making exercises beyond the body of the ethnographer/architect–; and (2) learning to relate in order to relate–situations to engage in an apprenticeship of storytelling styles and devices to account for these sensory experiments.
Drawing inspiration from the particular troubled and troubling relearning processes here recounted, I will argue that teaching experiments of this kind–albeit potentially useless or arguably funny–might hold the prospects of opening up anthropology towards more interventive engagements in the making of the complex worlds we inhabit.
When the Peasant Monument Meets the Museum: Mapping Transfers, Following Tensions (P) | 5/07 morning session
Tomasz Rakowski & Kuba Szreder
In our presentation we will discuss initial conclusions of the multi-sited investigation of the solo exhibition “Fears” organised by the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw in 2019, that featured interdisciplinary works of Daniel Rycharski, one of the most recognised contemporary artists of younger generation. Majority of his works, including the Peasant Monument that we quoted in the title of our talk, was created in the small village of Kurówko, located ca. 150 kilometres North-East from Warsaw, where Rycharski grew, and to which he is still bound, by both family and artistic ties. The village serves as his expanded studio, a site of artistic interventions and a community of practice with whom he performed outstanding feats of social self-organisation that challenged the stereotypes of rural passivity. On a closer look his ideas appear to be both ethnographically and artistically stimulating, as he is capable of channelling unfixed affects of the villagers, based on their sense of socioeconomic and cultural marginalization. However, his actions may be considered by some as challenging because Rycharski is both a devoted Christian and is openly gay. The exhibition was focused on his spiritual struggles with this conflicted identity, and was widely discussed in the national media, sometimes attacked or ridiculed in attempt to stir anti-LGBT sentiment, mostly for political reasons. Our research was conducted in cooperation with students of the Academy of Fine Arts and University of Warsaw, with whom we followed the development of the exhibition from its very inception and conducted field studies in Kurówko after it was finished. Together, we tried to map the points of convergence, flows of resources, transfers of ideas, social and political tensions induced by the project that linked together a metropolitan institution of contemporary art, a small, rural community, a public sphere shaped to large extent by a cultural conflict and an artist traversing the boundaries between those territories, not without creating a friction. When the Peasant Monument meets the Museum, the accusations of cultural appropriation follow. The tensions, conflicts, and controversies are as much part of this enterprise as an experimental work of reconciliation, affect, and care. Challenged by this theoretical and practical conundrum, we will share preliminary results of our investigations and discuss its implications for our understanding of the useful·less·ness of experiment in social art, ethnography and the new role of artistic institutions.
Traps as Diagrams and Diagrams as Traps (P) | 5/07 morning session
Hermione Spriggs, UCL Department of Anthropology and Slade School of Art.
‘Traps as Diagrams and Diagrams as Traps’ aims to further Alfred Gell’s assertion that traps be considered as functional artworks and vice versa (1996), and builds on this foundation for an even bolder approach to diagramming the relationship between art and anthropology. Traps are explored as a particular kind of technology which enable analytical play between species perspectives and disciplines which might at first appear to be ontologically distinct from one another, but are in fact recursively shaped and shape one another. Gell’s initial comparison is used as a means by which traps and artworks might bear more integrally upon one another to suggest not only certain structural similarities (as Gell suggested), but further co-generative potential for new frames of anthropological engagement and more-than-human artistic production. The trap emerges as a “diagram of practice” that enables visual art to locate itself in a recursive relationship with a given environment. Just as Gell suggested, the trap takes art beyond existing art-historical frameworks and aesthetic conventions. As a method for anthropology, trapping suggests an experimental approach to fieldwork that adopts unconventional media from a given context to playfully draw from its more-than-human object of study. It is for both art and anthropology alike to conjure up the question – like a well set trap – What is it like to “be” and draw into being that which one is not?
Collaborations, Collisions, Collutions. Experimental Departures from Everyday Objects (P) | 5/07 late morning session
Francisco Martínez, University of Helsinki
This paper proposes to take ordinary objects as critical vehicles and devices to think with, and also to reconsider museums as places where experimental research can happen. Ethnographically, it describes the preparation of the exhibition ’Objects of Attention’, which also included a public programme with research seminars, workshops, guided tours, popular media discussions and documentation. The research explores how design and curatorial processes can be written and anthropologically reflected upon. I acted as a curator, originally inviting ten artists active in the field of contemporary art to revise an ordinary object into a political question. Yet for the preparation of the exhibition I also worked with five workers of the museum, two designers, an illustrator, three researchers, three performance artists, three photographers, and three students of interior architecture. Indeed, with such a list of participants some visitors described the project as “a conversation instead of an exhibition”, “a tapas show”, and “a tutti-frutti”. This made me wonder if the measure of success for an exhibition could be the number of participants included per square meter, instead of the price of the artworks, the name of the artists, or the number of visitors. My score would be quite high if that were the criteria of assessment, 36’6 m² / 31 participants: 1’18 in the ranking. Yet in my case, the exhibition was designed into a site where fieldwork can expand into other forms of material intervention and social engagement, here refunctioned as an ethnographic device to connect analysis, design and experimentation.
The Backstage of Approaching Difficult European Heritage. Art, Ethnography and Horizon 2020 (P) | 5/07 late morning session
Katarzyna Maniak, Institute of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology, Jagiellonian University in Kraków & Magdalena Zych, Ethnographic Museum in Krakow
What is the role of ethno-artistic experiments on an institutional level? How does the European Commission manage scholars and artists through creation of a new heritage methodology? “Transmitting Contentious Cultural Heritages with the Arts: From Intervention to Co-Production: TRACES” was a three-year project (2016-2019), funded by the European Commission as part of the Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme. It was based on creative collaborations, undertaken by teams of theorists, artists, practitioners, museum workers and others researching selected cases of contentious cultural heritage. The paper will analyze the policy hidden behind the Horizon 2020 call, with special focus on how it defines the European identity, culture heritage and the role of art in approaching difficult past. The main part of the presentation will be dedicated to the particular project realized within this framework. “The Akward Objects of Genocide. The Holocaust and Vernacular Arts in and beyond Polish Ethnographic Museums” was dedicated to “folk art” created in post-war Poland and revolving around the Holocaust. Its aim was to assess the scale of phenomenon of Polish vernacular artists facing the Holocaust and interpret their art now, remaining in possession of ethnographic museums and in the hands of private collectors. The questions posed in the paper will regard how this experimental, multidisciplinary collaboration was being developed, what were the results and what was the strategy adopted by Wojciech Wilczyk, the artist engaged in the project.
Truposznica (A Corpse Carrier) – bystanders’ heritage in a series of actions of the Curatorial Collective (P) | 5/07 late morning session
Katarzyna Grzybowska, Anthropology of Literature and Cultural Studies Department at the Faculty of Polish Studies, Jagiellonian University
What does “Truposznica” – a material prop from the witness theatre – tell us about the bystanders’ experience? What lack of memory may this object help us point out at? How does the awkward ethnographic object resonate with Tadeusz Kantor’s death theatre? The series of experiments by the Curatorial Collective focuses on a wooden miniature car made by a folk sculptor Franciszek Wacek. Someone (the author? ethnographer?) called it “Truposznica” (“A Corpse Carrier”), “A Car from Treblinka”. It is a model of a car used to transport victims’ bodies or ashes. The object or its prototype was a prop used by the sculptor to illustrate war stories. The experiment – meant to show us what “Truposznica” was and is (in terms of the anthropology of things) – was based on transporting the object from the Ethnographic Museum to Cricoteka and surrounding it with testimonies, concepts and theories to create a network of references. We observed the object and its small, 3D printed copies in a performative action, museum intervention and exhibition. The action “90/100” by Wojtek Ziemilski (in cooperation with CC) was a procession from the Ethnographic Museum to Cricoteka. Its participants drew on strings plastic copies of the car. The intervention “462.” was about placing “Truposznica” sculpture in Cricoteka next to the works by Kantor. The last, self-referential stage was an exposition through which the Collective showed bio-objects as memory props in the era of technological change. All the actions were curated by the group of young scholars called Curatorial Collective who prepare exhibitions about “difficult heritage”, working in the experimental, collective formula.
The archaeological excavations of the « Déjeuner sous l’herbe à l’occasion de l’enterrement du tableau-piège » as a Potential Anthropology Workshop (P) | 5/07 late morning session
Bernard Müller, IRIS, EHESS
In an experimental approach focused on an artistic performance, on the borderline between artistic commitment and scientific concern, I will relate in this paper a project I have been leading since 2010 around the excavations of the “Déjeuner sous l’herbe à l’occasion de l’enterrement du tableau-piège” (a project I initiated). The context is the following: On April 23, 1983, the artist Daniel Spoerri organized a feast in the gardens of the Montcel estate in Jouy-en-Josas. This performance was called the “Lunch under the grass on the occasion of the funeral of the snare picture” (sic). On that day, about 120 illustrious members of the cultural elite gathered to participate to an Eat-Art performance concocted by the artist. While the guests enjoy a menu of offal, a digger crane opens a trench the same length as the table, perpendicular to it. After the meal, eaters are invited to detach the tray from their table and place it at the bottom of the trench, the dugout completely backfilled. The assembly leaves the place by agreeing to return soon, to open an original archaeological site that the artist dreamed of, seen by him as the “first excavations of modern art”, as if that form of artistic interventions had belonged to a vanished civilization… We realised 30 year later this excavation, with the amused participation of the artist: On this very site, the archeological excavation finally took place in 2010 in the frame of a genuine scientific, archeological and ethnographic project (IRIS, EHESS and INRAP, Paris https://www.dejeunersouslherbe.org). The experimental exploration method relates to an Ouvroir d’Anthropologie Potentielle (Workshop for potential anthropology) an approach that aims to experiment with new ways of producing para-ethnographic knowledge, inspired by artistic approaches. The OUANPO considers the “field” of the ethnologist as a performance exercise in style, by approaching its ethnographic methods not only as processes of gathering information, but of production of encounters, of creation of social situations that make a form emerge, and that Joseph Beuys could have called a “social sculpture”. We will focus on the creative dimension of research in anthropology in the diversity of its states: gaseous or solid, literary or plastic, stage or game, academic or FLUXUS, etc.
On the Surface of Text: A Reading Session with Props
Ofri Lapid, HFBK Hamburg (F) | 5/07 late morning session
“On the Surface of Text” is a reading session which combines text, sound recordings and props and takes place with the participation of the audience. It examines the manner in which literacy plays a role in the establishment of colonial power. It follows the story of Sankama, “the first of the Amazonian Piro*(Yine) tribe who claimed to know how to read”, which was put into writing in 1947 by the missionary and linguist, Esther Matteson. In the story, Sankama is reading from the newspapers discarded by his white patrons. Stating that the paper ‘speaks to him’, he prophesies the arrival of airplanes with Western clothing and the uprising of the colonized people. The anthropologist Peter Gow has postulated that Sankama was reading the text with the ‘eyes of the shaman’, observing the text as the shaman observes patterned visions during the hallucinogen induced healing ritual, thus concluding that Sankama preached to his people to learn to read and write in order to better their situation. However, in an ironic manner, the fact that Sankama’s speech is brought to us through the writings of a Western linguist (Matteson) and a Western anthropologist (Gow) exemplifies Sankama’s stand point in his critique of the Western fixation with text. The reading session re-conceptualizes the authoritative linear format in which academic knowledge is ordinarily shared. First, by lending multiply voices to a written oral account, involving the public in its revival into speech. (The text is printed on various materials from which the audience is invited to read from). Secondly, by tracing the manner in which Sankama’s story was cited, interpreted and transformed in the writing of anthropologists. Thirdly, by interlacing audio recordings of the text read in the original Yine- language. Thus creating another retrospective layer in which literacy is examined.
Parasitic Reading (F) | 5/07 early afternoon session
Francisco Martínez, University of Helsinki & Alyssa Grossman, University of Liverpool
For this workshop, we plan to take on a learning prototype originally designed by Rosario Talevi, which consists of a public platform for communality and knowledge-contagion created through acts of collective, out-loud reading. This pedagogical experiment aims to invoke archaic forms of storytelling in which people are assembled and communities are formed by gathering to listen and tell stories. It is also inspired by the knowledge transfer form proposed at the end of Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451, in which people try to preserve written ideas by recalling books verbatim. Our proposal of parasitic reading has three specific yet complementary goals: To instigate a new kind of attentive listening practice, to see what happens when someone else reads your own work, and to try and make something new out of all of the fragments. In preparation for the workshop, registered participants will be asked to submit a fragment (max 250 words) of any written text that they would like to share with the rest of the group. These fragments will not necessarily be read by the people who selected them; this exercise in parasitic reading is intended rather as an open-ended reading intervention.
Flying Kites Workshop (F) | 5/07 early afternoon session
Ewa Klekot, School of Form, Poznań
The workshop is based on the idea of Tim Ingold, described in his text The textility of making. Its aim is to encourage the participant’s reflection on both the agency, in terms of material engagement (Malafouris), as well as the environment in terms of material flows. Making the kite can be understood by participants in hylemorphic categories of form and matter, but flying it challenges this understanding. “The kites – Ingold writes – behaved in the way they did because, at the moment we went out of doors, they were swept up, as indeed we were ourselves, in those currents of air that we call the wind. The kite that had lain lifeless on the table indoors, now immersed in these generative currents, had come to life. What we had thought to be an object was revealed as what I would call a thing. And the thing about things, if you will, is that far from standing before us as a fait accompli, complete in itself, each is a ‘going on’—or better, a place where several goings on become entwined” (Ingold 2010: 96).
The workshop will consist of (1) making kites, flying them (2), possibly on the bridge over Olza rirev, or on the river bank, and (3) discussion of the experiment. During the discussion I will refer to Ingold, also to his anthropology of lines, and to Deleuze and Guattari, using a short presentation, if necessary.
Ethnographical Mystification (F) | 5/07 early afternoon session
Małgorzata Markiewicz, Art Department of the Pedagogical University in Krakow
In 2017 I developed the Ethnographical Mystification concept. It was a result of reflection on blind trust in knowledge. Later on, I have made an experiment, ask my students to take up the role an ethnographical researcher who claims to uncover truthful histories. The task was: “Suppose we were presented with 5 objects, and a hint that they used to belong to a tribe or a similar group of people, and our task would be to figure out who their owners were and what they were doing. Would our conclusions, based on these shreds of information, reflect reality accurately? How many different arrangements, images and representations can we come up with, faced with such truncated data regarding other human beings?”. In Cieszyn I would like to make workshops where I will ask participants of the conference to deal with the same assignment as my students. It is going to be not only the play with imagination. It is going to be an experiment and exercise in negation, in posing questions and disputing facts. In the same time I hope we will become more aware of superficial opinions made about someone or something. What is more, I hope to proof that even the most bizarre stories, people and their traditions are always stories of here and now. So we will have a chance to check if such an experiment can be useful for us as a researches or not.
Floating herstories. Deconstruction of a tropical pictorialism (F) | 5/07 late afternoon session
Maica Gugolati, EHESS IMAf
I propose a visual and sound installation that aims to demonstrate the construction of pictorialism by deconstructing the fictionalization of “tropical” (Thompson 2004) representations of landscapes and of identities. This project is focused on the territory of Trinidad and Tobago (WI), the location of my PhD fieldwork. The installation involves a sensory and physical engagement of the audience in which the public experiences the proximity between subjects and situations as a characteristic of the ethnographic methodology of observant participation (Tedlock 1991, Guber 2001), specific to this research. Colonial pictorialism represents the “new world” as a paradise created by European civilization that responds to its exotic imaginings. My proposal aims to deconstruct the creation of tropical pictorialism visually and aurally. The images are projected on a platform that the audience can cross. As they do so, visitors hold a shell that, thanks to technology, is triggered as soon they start listening to it, just as children do at the beach. Instead of hearing to the sound of the sea, however, the audience listens to self-exoticized stories about lives that are simultaneously real and fictional. This experimental artistic/ethnographic installation allows the public to experience the fictional construction of the representation of tropical landscapes in images with contemporary subjects, in their “tropical” self-representations.
Ethnography of an experiment: Artur Żmijewski and his “Repetition” of Zimbardo Stanford Prison Experiment (P) | 5/07 late afternoon session
Iza Desperak, Institute of Sociology, University of Lodz
The presentation focuses on the famous Stanford Prison experiment, conducted by social psychologist Philip Zimbardo in 1971, and its ‘repetition’ conducted by Polish visual artist, Artur Żmijewski, in 2005. In original Zimbardo’s experiment all participants fit their roles of either prisoners or wardens so perfectly that resulted in acts of abuse and violence. In later re-analysis of the results, in “The Lucifer Effect” (2007) the psychologist explained that in given circumstance even ‘good people’ may ‘engage in evil actions’. However, Artur Żmijewski replicated Zimabardo’s experiment, and obtained completely opposite results. The video documenting this ‘experiment’ titled “Powtórzenie/Repetition” was shown as a video at Venice Biennale in 2005, but is not available to mass audience. “Repetition” by Żmijewski documents completely opposite result of prison experiment, his participants do group together, and stand up against its organizer. Such a result is a complete surprise. I would like to propose discussion of possible explanations for such difference, and I suppose application of cultural interpretation, stressing the difference between two societies: Polish culture, where Żmijewski conducted his “Repetition”, being culture of values including solidarity, which emerged on the 80s in Solidarity social and political movement, and American culture differing in its values.
Ethnography as experimental aesthetic practice – Learning from Harun Farocki (P) | 5/07 late afternoon session
Martin Büdel, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg
The filmmaker-artist and writer Harun Farocki was repeatedly portrayed as ‘ethnographer of capitalist societies/lifeworlds’. By analyzing some aspects of his work, I hope to contribute to the reflection about ethnographic experimentation in general. Initially working in the context of television and cinema, Farocki later on explored the complex interrelation between images and society within the field of video art and installation. In addition to a few feature films, Farocki realized a wide variety of documentary and experimental projects, often experimenting with techniques that are also popular in the field of ethnographic film: observational camera, variants of direct cinema or analytical approaches using cinematic means. Farocki is also close to anthropology in terms of his objects. He explored various facets of modern societies, such as industrial relations and conditions of production, or the use of war and surveillance technologies. Farocki’s work can be understood as an experimental aesthetic practice, as an action that immerses itself into reality, into the objects of the world (van der Meulen and Wiesel 2013). Like ethnography, Farocki’s films and videos explore various areas of everyday social life that often remain unnoticed or invisible, thereby drawing attention to important questions of our time. By retracing some aspects of Farocki’s experimental practice, I would like to think about questions such as: What is ethnographic in Farocki’s films and videos? What can be learned from his approach for an experimental ethnographic practice? In how far is ethnography, in general, best understood as an experimental aesthetic practice?
Reactive Filmmaking – A Case Study of the “Wild Pear” Group in Serbia (F) | 5/07 late afternoon session
Zoe Aiano, Wild Pear Arts
Wild Pear is an arts group focused primarily on producing ethnographic films in Eastern Serbia, but with future plans to expand into other formats and regions of the Balkans. Founded by anthropologist Alesandra Tatic and filmmaker Zoe Aiano, the original intention was to produce a short film on spiritual practices among the Vlach community. However, as they grew close to the community and gained a better understanding of the situation in the region, they felt compelled to expand the scope of the project, which first developed into a feature documentary and then several related short films and eventually the basis of an organisation, which became officialised with the addition of Greta Rauleac to the team as co-creator and producer. As such, the genesis of Wild Pear and its projects has been inherently structured as a response to the interests of the protagonists, the addition of newly acquired information and also the many challenges faced during research and production. Reacting has become a core part of our methodology. For this conference, we will present a brief history of our work using clips from our films to illustrate how the final outcome was formed by the circumstances encountered while filming. Finally, we will open up a debate with the attendees to get their feedback and suggestions on ways that we can strive to make our activities more relevant and useful for the communities we depict.
Inclusion through action – from experiments (with art in the background) to practice (P) | 6/07 morning session
Inga B. Kuźma & Alicja Piotrowska, Centrum Innowacji Społecznych UŁ
In our paper, we would like to present activities involving artistic tools and forms in meetings and activities involving people who are in a crisis of homelessness. Look at such methodological and empirical experiments on the borderline of various fields of science as the use of creative potential excluded in the process of restoring, recovering agency – which is part of the research stream involved in this and engaged anthropology involved. We will present two examples – on a different scale and different way of implementation, different recipients but focused on the empowerment perspective; The first of them is associated with an international project under the Erasmus+ program – “Women and Homelessness”. We will present a way of involving women experiencing the crisis of homelessness in the process of creating a logo of a project as a way of reaching and involvement from the beginning in the process of shaping certain practices, sharing knowledge, which is one of the main axes of the project. An interesting dimension of activities is identification by creating a visual representation of the actions undertaken, while building trust, level of partnering and co-improvement at the project level. The second example of inclusion and agency through a specific socio-artistic experiment is the local adaptation of the project by the graduate of the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts Eugenia Vasylchenko, which is the result of her BA thesis entitled “Everyone can hit the street”, called “Skrzynka Domni-Homeless”. As growing out of an artistic project – it turns into a project of acting, accompanying, giving voice to articulate needs, and inclusive practices.
Navigating the new paths for Socialization for HIV positive mothers’ in Egypt Post 2011 (P) | 6/07 morning session
“I’ve learned to value failed conversations, missed connections, confusions. What remains is what’s unsaid, what’s underneath. Understanding on another level of being.”
–A Nest of Quiet: A Notebook by Anna Kamieńska.
The social as a “field” is in a continuous state of “becoming” (Biehl, 2017). Navigating the social with its mutating and ephemeral nature needs courage and creativity to experiment in order to go beyond the “ordered”, “the indexed”, and the “seen”. Living with HIV (Human-immune deficiency virus that causes AIDS) is a continuous state of constructing and reconstructing new and old social fields. It is an intimate disease whether in its modes of transmission or in the way it is being discussed, stigmatized, and as a common denominator upon which socialization patterns are being calculated. It brings family, friends and partners at the forefront of the discussions around it and creates a room for new socialization patterns like joining a support group. In my research with mothers living with HIV in Egypt, I opted to sense “what is not there” to make sense of what is “there”. Deploying the concept of politics of articulation has shed the light on the set of invisible dynamics and or politics that influence what is being told (Papadopoulos and Stephenson, 2006). It manifested when the spontaneous act of talking or articulating what is in the mind entered the zone of considering what should and should not be told. Examining those socialization patterns through the “Unseen” prism of articulation and its politics complemented the method of “participant observation” and placed what is felt and “not there” on equal ground with what is “observed” and “seen”.
Women users of cocaine base: dialogues about love, desire, and autonomy (P) | 6/07 morning session
Marcelo Rossal, Instituto de Educación & Departamento de Antropología Social, Universidad de la República, Uruguay
Freebase cocaine users are people often disqualified. Their lives are marked by violence, neurological damage and the stigma of “immorality”. In particular, women using free-base cocaine carry a stigma associated with prostitution and bad motherhood. These are people with whom one should not talk, are social marginalized. I would like to present an ethnographic project that we conducted with women addicted to cocaine freebase, in cooperation with the staff of the University Hospital in Montevideo. As part of the project, we confronted the ethnographic research with the medical staff’s research approach. The important fact was that the interlocutors were women who appeared in the hospital, not because of decision to get rid of addiction, but came to stay in the hospital because of pregnancy or other illnesses. Extraordinary medical staff offered them not only medical and social care as part of their stay, but also the opportunity to talk to an anthropologist. During these conversations, I met with an unusual trajectory of the stories of women who, in open dialogues on the main issues of human life, dealt with issues interplaying with topics such as love, desires and personal autonomy. During the project in an unexpected way emerged a kind of new, ephemeral reality. A careful exchange with physicians and social workers served ethnography as a deontology. Deontology serving to understand the stigmatized and marginalized group.
Experience of experiment. Ethnographer in a problem theatres (P) | 6/07 morning session
Justyna Laskowska, Otwinowska Państwowe Muzeum Etnograficzne in Warsaw
After five years of amateur involvement in theatrical and pro-refugee activities of Strefa Wolnosłowa Foundation from Warsaw I’ve began my adventure with a Polish realization of a “Ma(g)daleny” – forum-theater created by successors of Augusto Boal. Both of these theaters work with social problems: Strefa Wolnosłowa with oppression experienced by refugees and migrants, “Ma(g)daleny” with women oppression in Polish culture. Moreover, these two theatres base their scenarios on personal experience of people who are later an actors playing their-selves lives. The rules make them similar each to other and to a performative ethnography assumptions at the same time. However, they vary in approach to collecting materials. An interviews colleted by Strefa are subjected to European and non-European references in a literary process. Meanwhile, the scenarios of “Ma(g)daleny” are made only by authors – actress who create an aesthetic dimension also. The idea of an audience contact in time of performance occures in both types of performances also, but it is carried out in a different ways. “Ma(g)daleny” as a forum –theatre, develops it in much more engaging manner. A possibility of revealing judgments and emotions by the audience is powerful experience in “Ma(g)daleny” performance. For me – an ethnographer unintentionally caught up in the middle of the experiment this is inspiring, too. An aim of this paper is to reflect upon what kind of experimental material is available thanks to these theatrical forms. In presentation will be used audio and video records from performances.
Another Word for Literature (P) | 6/07 late morning session
Elisa Taber, Words without Borders & Slug
I will both present an excerpt from my hypertextual ethnographic fiction collection–a story I translated, a video I filmed, and a story I wrote–and analyze the epistemology of the writer turned translator turned ethnographer. Hypertext is a multi-sequentially read text. The main text consists of metonymic translations from indigenous Latin American languages (Quechua, Nahuatl, Guaraní, and Maya) into English. Metonymy is the substitution of a whole with a part. Different typefaces render multiple versions of the source differentiable and simultaneously legible in the target text. The paratext consists of ekphrastic short stories I wrote based on thirty second videos I filmed of the authorial culture corresponding to each translated piece. Ekphrasis is the substitution of an image with a description. A hyperlink in each ekphrastic story leads to the corresponding film. The stories I translated pertain to collections edited by Ernesto Cardenal, Miguel Ángel Asturias, José María Arguedas, and Augusto Roa Bastos. Except for Arguedas, none are trained anthropologists or known as translators, all are renowned Latin American authors. The epistemology of the writer turned translator turned ethnographer consists of recognizing and rendering an ontological poetics, a text’s potential to transform. Translation between oral and chirographic cultures hinges on employing ethnographic method and theory to deprovincialize the canon and substitute the term literature. Experimentation is intrinsic to my hypertextual ethnographic fiction collection on three counts: oral literature disavows a source; literary translation, a definitive rendition; and hypertextuality, a linear narrative.
Indigenous rituals facing extractivist ruination as a subverting collective experiment on value and ownership. An Andean example (P) | 6/07 late morning session
Juan Javier Rivera Andia, Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos (Peru)
I propose to examine the terms by which an Andean collective (of humans and non-humans) experiment with their relationship with (the composition of) the world in a context saturated by different external-driven processes of ruination (in the form of a Latin American neoliberal extractivist endeavour). I intend to do so leaving open the possibility of a radical alterity and multiplicity of an “environment” with whom this Andean collective (called Cañaris) relate in terms that may partially exceed modern worldings. The current extractivist context Cañaris faces today emerges as an open-pit mining project that (taking the land as an object or “natural resource”) plans to simply erase all of the main town of Cañaris and displace its inhabitants.
I will address an indigenous experiment that, through specific materials (those of a building called Iglisya) and techniques (those of Cañaris’ cosmopolitical rituals), test not only the values, notions, representations of the world but also its composition itself. I argue that since its clandestine construction by “indios” of the eighteenth century, this Iglisya (and the rituals it hosts) not only represented the land, but actually constituted it or made it exist in a particular form. Through concrete rituals (that use specific musical or aural codes), the relationship between Cañaris and a key element of its “environment” (the land) is experimented using a specific local idiom: that of the relationship between parents and children. This paper tests the productivity of an ontography (or an ethnography understood in terms of the so-called ontological turn) to describe this relationship. I want to test if this kind of anthropological (or ontological) description could allow us observe an indigenous ritual as a native experiment executed in order to let Cañaris exist.
Describing the composition of the land in Cañaris as a child, making it appear as “existent”, is in direct confrontation with the land as a “natural resource” or inert object which emerges from extractivist mega-projects currently undergoing in Cañaris. But not only. Let us note that this non-human entity that emerge from this ontogenic exploration is simultaneously less “indigenous” and more “artificial” (and less spiritual and more material, and less mediatised and more invisible) than what has usually been the focus of Amerindian studies (i.e., in the case of the narratives around Andean earth beings such as Pachamama, Mother-Earth or Apus, and the associated discourses about the buen vivir or “good life”). To these publicised narratives, one can also oppose the figure of a land-child in Cañaris.
In sum, this paper considers the material, ritual and aural aspects of a more-than-human entity through which humans experiment with a particular form of land, a historical cosmopolitical device with which they enact subversions that contend an increasingly threatening extractivist context.
Experimenting with non-humans (P) | 6/07 late morning session
Maria Debinska, Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology, Polish Academy of Sciences
This paper addresses the forms of ethnographic experimentation that resulted from the increased interest in non-human actors and points of view. In recent years a large body of research has been produced on human entanglements with non-human species (e.g. Kohn 2013, Tsing 2015) which has been a result of various forms of ethnographic experimentation in both writing and data gathering. This paper discusses these ethnographies to argue that it is still necessary that anthropologists invent new ways of relating to non-humans. It then explores the possibilities of ethnographic experimentation in relations with non-humans afforded by encounters with Physarum Polycephalum, a slime mold that possess characteristics of both fungi and animals, and has been used in computer programming and communication systems modeling (Adamatzky 2010), finding solutions to social problems (Plasmodium Symposium at Hampshire College, 2017), and in research on the origins of consciousness, among others. I examine these and other artistic and scientific encounters with slime molds (including the author’s) to analyze the ways these organisms can foster ethnographic and artistic experiments and to pose some methodological questions regarding the role of non-humans in anthropological research.
Laboring in Smell’s Shadow (F) | 6/07 late morning session
Christy Spackman, School for the Future of Innovation in Society + School of Arts, Media & Engineering, Arizona State University
You may have done this: been invited to taste two seemingly similar things, and been asked which you liked better, or which one was different. This little action, part of a larger industry of extracting knowledge from bodies, relies on an approach ethic of disconnecting the products of sensation from the bodies that sense in pursuit of a larger, aggregate truth about the ways that molecules interact with perceiving bodies. These sensory experiments shape how industrial food systems pattern their product design and invention. They are useful precisely in their ability to transform taste or smell into numbers that allow the creation of products destined for the market. What happens when we disrupt those interactions? When we run sensory experiments as a form of ethnographic inquiry, rather than a form of market making? This open format intervention invites participants to take part in making a space for sensory labor and then performatively disrupting it, creating a new space where information deemed economically useless by its very existence outside of industrial or academic knowledge structures is made useful for investigating what experiences hide in our own olfactory or gustatory shadows.
From Zolozolo to Spotify to Cieszyn. Sound ethnographies of spaces (F) | 6/07 afternoon session
Piotr Cichocki, Institute of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology, University of Warsaw
The action combines the form of a lecture, a DJ set, performance and sound installation. Its central point is the music of North-Malawian artists. During the research started in 2016, I started a participatory production and publication of recordings of several artists from Mzuzu. The project based on the approach to fieldwork as an experimental cooperation network (Shumakher). The cooperation with musicians had artistic, ethnographic, economic and political dimensions. From the perspective of artists who receive income from sales, it created the opportunity to “change their life”. The recordings were published worldwide and went beyond the ethnomusicological context. They attracted interest in the international music market. However, they carry a clear critical potential and questioning of the hierarchical disproportions of so-called world music. The performance intends to combine sound spaces of the recording and its decontextualized feedback. The five-channel installation will mix simultaneously the music, a narration of the ethnographer/producer, musicians’ comments and sounds recorded by other participants of the project. Using a polyphony, it will combine sites that are both disconnected and connected by a global circulation. One polar is the poor district of the Mzuzu city while the other consists of streaming platforms. This evokes the simultaneous experience of space that, although hierarchically interconnected (Gupta, Ferguson), struggles with isolation by exoticism. In this case, anthropology and art attempt to resonate with the invisible – transcontinental relationships, spaces-in-between, the nostalgia of this (dis)connecting distance (Orrantia).
Arctic Circle, or collective exercises in art beyond art (F) | 6/07 afternoon session
Kuba Szreder, Sebastian Cichocki, Consortium for Postartistic Practices*
* Consortium for Postartistic Practices is a loose network of duck-rabbits, who flocked togethered, anxious for the future of human civilization, threaten by rising fascism, looming ecocide, and rampant authoritarianism.
We propose to reconstruct a work by Rasheed Araeen: Arctic Circle, from 1988, a circle set from hundreds of bottles, in itself conceived as a critique of land art and cultural appropriation. Together with Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, the Arctic Circle has been already reenacted in the Sculpture Park in Bródno in 2017, embedded in the action research project Deviant Practices, sponsored by Vanabbe Museum in Eindhoven. The action research was aimed at exploring and stretching the of artistic institutions’ capacity to support artistic experiments transgressing the boundaries of the art world. During the exercise in Cieszyn, we will have fun, exercise our imagination, stretch our muscles, and make use of our competences to push art beyond art. All this in tribute to Rasheed Araeen.
The Anthropology of Other Animals (F) | 6/07 afternoon session
Hermione Spriggs, Department of Anthropology and Slade School of Art, UCL
Animal traps are perspectivist technologies, capable of interfacing between worlds or jurisdictions. Like the Guyana spring trap that “turns fish into fruit” (Gell 1996), traps mobilise subjects across ontological registers and elicit extraordinary effects from unpromising materials. The aim of this workshop is to consider the multi-sensory aesthetics of trapping as a form of “art practice” geared towards beyond-human thought and perception. I begin with the proposition that animal trappers themselves enact a kind of “coyote anthropology” (Wagner 2010), or an Anthropology of Other Animals. An ethnographic engagement with trapping is unavoidably recursive, responding to the materiality and agency of things – As Chloe Nahum Claudel cautions, a trapper is always subject to the will of her traps (2017). For the Colleex Workshop I would like to:
i) introduce the manifesto for a provisional space that I’m calling the Anthropology of Other Animals (AoOA)
ii) introduce a series of practical “agility training” exercises that I find useful as a preparatory means for engaging with hard-to-access perspectives and beyond human worlds
iii) apply one or several of these exercises to an engagement with objects from the ethnographic collections of The Museum of Cieszyn Silesia
iv) collaboratively workshop future applications and directions for AoOA.
Remaining in confusion (F) | 6/07 open ending
Eeva Berglund, Department of Design, Aalto University & Tomás Criado, Institute for European Ethnology, Humboldt-University of Berlin
This open-ended closing format seeks to generate situations and conditions for the appreciation and discussion of confusion: Confusion pervades most of our contemporary endeavours. From trying to follow the news to work, we often find ourselves in situations that put us at the very limits of our capabilities of thought and action. Confusion, hence, is perhaps the predominating atmosphere of the present.
But confusion might also be an after-effect of the many debates and interventions around the use·full·less·ness of experimentation that we have tried to elicit in this workshop. This open-ended format leads us to explore how to remain in confusion so as to find arts of living better in this present. For this, participants will be invited to plunge into the site-specificity of Political Critique and draw on different inputs from the works already presented. In closing, the workshop’s very format and scope will the reflected upon. But rather than remaining in a ‘meta’ type of discussion, we will try to inquire into practicalities: whether use·full·less·ness is a relevant form of addressing or appreciating experimentation, and what other ways have been and might be discussed or elicited by participants so as to bring the conversation further.
Picture: Tear Dealer (Lublin, 2014) by Alicja Rogalska & Łukasz Surowiec. Taken by Filip Chrobak