Anthropology of art: Ways of Working by Arnd Schneider and Christopher Wright

With regards to my ideas on the watches that delve into the physical watches themselves, I have to begin to think about the images and what I want them to tell. When I initially started with my macro ideas, I was able to make the technical side of the images, however I was unable to actually begin to incorporate a narrative within the pictures. Now for my current ideas, I want this to be something that actually can be seen from the viewer.
So I decided that the best way to start thinking about this would be looking at anthropology, but more specifically in art, in which I came across this article that looks at the idea.

In the beginning of this work, it gives us a brief look at the ways we work in contemporary art nowadays ” approaching creativity and meaning of something often emergent rather than prefigured or planned” (Schneider and Wright, 2013) The article then goes on to talk about various artists that use anthropology in different ways.  The first artist Pia Arke delves in the terms of the denarrating her pictures of her birthplace.  For her work Arke made a series of artistic investigations into thousands of family albums and colonists’ and scientific explorers photos of these remote places;  the result of this challenge the prevailing, well-meaning views of art historians on certain timeless qualities and situated the subject: in its colonial and post-colonial context. Her work address anthropological themes today, but it also brings up the point that as editors, we make subjective choices.
Today in art, a huge body of work is made all the time, but a majority of the work is looked at as “an ass
emblage of work by practitioners from different backgrounds  without really exploring in any depth that can gained from these juxtapositions.” (Schneider and Wright, 2013) For me, I take this as looking at various artists and looking at what exactly has influenced them in their work to create these pieces, and how actually these different ideas can help us make an interesting body of work.

However we don’t always have to rely on records to give us more information. Rather, we can actually speak to other people to gain first hand knowledge from them as well. Anthony Luvera is one artist who looks at this aspect in his residency series. I will talk more about this project in another blog post, but for now I will focus on the how and its relevance. For ethnography, speaking to the subjects is probably more important then the final pieces sometimes. Sometimes this can actually be a long-term commitment before any picture is actually made. So for anthropology, this is a similar thing as you have to maintain contact with collaborators. It’s interesting to think of this as this whole process actually helps tell us as the image maker on building up the relevant knowledge so that we can create a narrative within our images; we aren’t making the image blind at all. To be able to know what you are talking  about is quite critical as what you may portray in your images might not be exactly what you want. With Luvera’s images on the homeless in residency, they are completely opposite to what we traditionally think of homeless pictures. So how do we know what we are taking is the right way to portray the subject or object without knowing the key details?

Not long after this, the book talks about “anthropologists have traditionally aimed to be site-specific in their fieldwork and representations of their fieldwork” (Schneider and Wright, 2013) which has a direct link to my project at the minute of it being site-specific to Coventry. By doing the initial research of the History of Coventry, I have begun to narrow down on the site and what I want to look at exactly. So for me, I may not be exactly be on the lines on anthropology, but I am still abiding by the same ‘rules’ of sticking to one place and researching into it.

Perhaps what is more relevant to what I am looking at at the moment in this article is that “many accounts of the relationship between art and anthropology focus on its historically and politically contingent role and colonial and postcolonial regimes.”(Schneider and Wright, 2013) This in particular is relevant to the idea of the historical value that watches have in Coventry, but also what they hold towards the person who owns it. We think of how people back in the 19th century worked hard on these objects, studying into how they made them and how they treated them has a lot of value.

For me, this was what I took from the book that had the most relevance to me with regards to what I am looking at now; the rest of it was filled with artists that has no real relevance and was more on a focus on anthropology as the instead. However reading everything has been of tremendous value to me with regards on how to not just see an image as an image, but more so on the story that it tells us. However that story can’t be made out of nothing; there has to be more research either into that person/object or into the area or even other artists so that you can build up your own knowledge for the subject area you are working on.

Schneider, A. and Wright, C. (2013). Anthropology and art practice. Bloomsbury Academic, pp.1-21.


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