Ritual in the Nature of Cooperation

‘The Artist as Artist as Curator as Collaborator’ – Clare Goodwin (curating around practise/collaborative projects).

What lies behind offering the gift? Is The gift more about cultural or capital status?

The ideal of the ‘individual’ was born in renaissance. It was a workshop so you would have an assistant who would mix your paint for you. But this isn’t a collaboration because you have servants, whoever signs the painting is the master so they get the credit. This happens nowadays because Damien Hurts, Phia De Barlo ask someone to do things you can but still have the authorship of the work which changes the dynamic of collaborative work. Collaboration – Marinia Abramovic is another good example of this exploitation, although she worked with Ulay he is unrecognised in her performance pieces. Although without his presence the work would function, she is accredited.

‘Rest Energy’ 1980 by Abramovic and Play

As an individual artist there is an argument that you can only access a limited resource, confound by your own mind and condition. Working in collaboration could be suggested to unlock new ways of visualising and pushing boundaries.  This brings to question at what point are you collaborating officially? Many ideas circulate around the art work, and beyond this in adverting, film, music and conversations which are drawn upon in influencing artist. Meret Oppenheim’s ‘object’ on a fur tea cup and saucer was the product on a conversation with Picasso in which he suggested anything could be covered in fur, sparking the idea for the piece. Oppenheim took all the credit for the piece, however, this could arguably been unjust considering Picasso’s role.

‘Object’ Paris, 1936 by Meret Oppenheim


Interestingly at the Whitworth Gallery in Manchesteran Exhibition on ‘South Asian Modernists’ has been curated in celebration to the Partition between India and Pakistan. This act is celebrated despite it being orchestrated by the British Colonial Army, causing huge devision and murder across the land. The work doesn’t actually discuss what’s happened but seemingly celebrates independence. Here’s an example of when historical facts have been concealed so that the art work in the exhibition can be ‘enjoyed’ on an aesthetic level, without confronting the responsibilities of our colonial past. This covering/ concealing of history is something which really fascinates me in my own practise. I defiantly want to investigate historical events in my work.

‘Palace Gate’, 1959 by Anwar Jalal Shemza showing at Whitworth Exhibition.

Some artists we discussed:

  • Sophie Call – lived as a house maid in a hotel. She compiles info through notes e.t.c she registered how her relationships were between herself and her interaction with those visiting the hotel by recording what they left behind. She is a surrealist and dada artist who’s work becomes auto-enthnographic (almost obsessively about herself). This talks about the notion that we are present not just in our body but also in the objects which surround us.

    ‘The Hotel, Room 47’ 1981 by Sophie Calle. Presented by the Patrons of New Art through the Tate Gallery Foundation 1999 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/P78300
  • Clair Goodwin’s curation of ‘Museum of the Unwanted’ Zug 2015  featured artists who uses the unwanted either directly or conceptually. It was a readymade space so had to be careful about where to place work. ‘Unwanted’ questions if these pieces are important but they were all pieces which were on loan from artists. They couldn’t buy any of the work as it belonged to different galleries. http://www.huberhuber.com/exhibition/-the-museum-of-the-unwanted/



Fieldwork in Art Practise

Notes from second seminar session on Fieldwork in Art Practise:

The whole point of participation observation is that the anthropologist is to remain inside the discussion. Susan Hillar is an artist who used to be an anthropologist and in her book, ‘Thinking about art”, she argues that art is by definition an anthropological practise. Hillar asks: What is it that artist do? What’s their job/function/role is to explore hidden codes in culture, artists have a task of disclosure. They need to manifest a share unarticulated believe. Voltanski says similar statements that art should be about revealing things which aren’t revealed in other domains.

All artists are using cultural artefacts in their work. Alfred Gell says that the art object is an extension of the self. Societies preserve their social continuity by circulating gifts. In the Cooler system we would pass on beads and shells etc. and these were circulated as a status symbol – to maintain the balance in society. The ‘gift’ can be without ties but this is very rare.

  • Is art just about giving joy/pleasure?

Rituals– Mary Douglas’ book ‘Purity and danger’ looks at purity and dirt (the most archaic system of division of separating seen in the cast system in India). HOW are these two separated. What is the faming of what’s ‘pure’ or ‘dirty’. Purtiy = sacred. Dirty = profane. Rituals are fundamental of human life as they’re symbolic. Hilliard says it ‘seems impossible to have social relations without symbolic acts’. Life is divided to ritual in a way which is so regular we forget about them e.g. The days of the week have a meaning in part of a pattern (aside from their practical function). Whilst these are banal, ritual replaces religion in anthropological readings as the ritual enters secular not just religious life.

Douglas thinks the handling of money is one of the most interesting rituals. Money provides fixed recognisable sign and mediates transactions just as the ritual mediates experience. Money can ONLY perform its role when society has faith in it. When we loose faith then the financial rates go wild, the currency becomes useless. The same with rituals – they’re dependant on our value and belief in it. Symbols have power within social life.

Hilliard talks about  the notion of Danger. Disorder in culture is a symbol of danger but also of power and the Ritual recognises the potency of disorder. Stuart Morgan’s theory was that everyone’s life is made up of life crisis. These crisis are made up if ceremonies and move through 3 phases. Separation, transition and incorporation. In transitional phase the individual  is neither in or outside of society- they are in a liminal state. The argument is that artist are in this liminal state – this state of ‘not being fixed’ is the cause of imagination. Stuart Morgan’s proposition is that artists are in this state, they can then act as a person to help someone over a threshold.‘The Artist in the margin’ or ‘passer’. We live in a time of crisis and fragmentation. The question of art now is should we be concerned with beauty? Inevitably there is a move of being anti-aesthetic at the end of 80’s and 90’s. She comments on the 1995 ‘The rights of passage” exhibition of artists interested in ethnographic practises, saying that the work is pointing in the right direction by coming close to the crisis by making work.

Do artists accompany the crisis or society? Jarr follows this by pointing out the bad in society. There needs to be a balance between informing people and poetry. When discussing politics and poetry we need to consider if this should be done at an intimate or critical distance? Jeff Koons discusses that whole of life is about simulation. Auctions are places where people need to know the ritual, values are considered- how are they made or transmitted? the Ritual is being played out in a capitalist way, in a similar way to money being based on an illusion of faith.

  • Does ART only function if its believed in and accepted? In the same way money or rituals do?
  • Does art function as a form of therapy?

Martha Roslar uses photography form different angles to show how photography can change what’s going on. When you take a photograph, you make a presentation of the artists notion of the world. This can either be propagandistic or closer to the truth. If even such a traditionally reliable method of ‘recording’ can alter our perception of hold an agenda then can art be used in understanding other cultures then?

There is a timelessness which is challenged by artists today. There is a risk in appropriation and appreciation of another culture is to preserve it because there is no such thing as a fixed time of tradition. We are always in transition, therefore the idea of timelessness is not real. Turner plays on timelessness in his work but he still studied in places which were fixed location which he stayed in. This idea of timelessness is more about cultural tourism. We can be sucked in by imagery that we no longer see the reality. We can ‘take in’ pictures of war with seemingly no emotion impact because of the assault of the media which causes a tendency to escape from reality.

Nomadism – lyrical nomadism – Clemente and Orozco plays on aesthetic, poetic etc which play on ‘going wherever’. Richard Wentworth looks at everyday signs of the street, making these into a cultural artefact which has subtle significance. Hard nomadism – Hans Haake, decides to concentrate on a specific space and time. He builds instillations to provoke public debate. He carries out diversion (situationalist, framing and disrupting). Haake produces symbolic actions e.g. in 1993 Hakke realised  that at Venice biennale that the pavilion had been build by the NAZI’s. Haake smashed the floor. He is framing set ups to explain to the audience what is going on behind.

Artist and Anthropologist

My fist seminar session on Art and Anthropology discussed Theory and Practise reviewing the links between artist and anthropologist from surrealism to the contemporary ‘ethnographic turn’ with Joseph Kosuth.

Dialogues between Art and Anthropology.

Artist as Ethnographer-Art history has lost it’s broadening as western art has dominated art history. Very little on Asian and African art history which is needed to open up dialogue with other cultures. Lucy Lipard- a feminist art critique opened art history to a social context towards the end of the 1960’s. Western art history has always been based on aesthetics- based on academic notions of what beauty is about but other cultures have different concepts about what art is – Apolitical relevatism.

  • American anthropology = cultural anthropology (idea that everything is relevant)
  • English anthropology = social anthropology. Was called functionalism (1920-1930) was a very pragmatic organisation of social life etc.
  • Institutional Anthropology – divided by institutions. Goffman discusses how people are framed.

Surrealists, many of whom wanted to be anthropologists, were interested in the ideas of Marcel Mauss. The surrealists were interested in unconscious through the study of Freud and were exploring how much culture helps to understand of their background. They wanted to explore and experience ‘the other’. Although artists such as Picasso had studied ‘the other’,  he was inspired by African art in a purely aesthetic sense – he wasn’t interested in the culture. ‘Primitivism in Newyork’ 1970’s by Ruben, discusses how we  should treated ‘the other’ as not ‘art just as artefact’ but as art in its own right. BUT Picasso was appropriating, not actually looking at what was going on with this work which maybe was another form of ‘orientalism’.

Similarly, Edward Said when traveling to middle east brought back exotic canvas. They were presenting ‘the other’ as something radically different which we don’t understand, we fantasies and fetishes because of the distance we supposedly have from it. The notion of authenticity is what decides what’s authentic or not. There is a desire to preserve the ‘other’ as something which can be observed for pleasure of our aesthetic. Many blur the content so the viewer can just enjoy the work. An example of this is the Manchester exhibition-  ‘Independence of India and Pakistan’ – which camouflage what really happened, concealing that it was a division made by the British. This is linked to surrealisms discussing the covering up of  WW1 as surrealists started a journal which played with shock by mixing high and low.

There’s a tension between art and anthropology, anthropologist are interested in ‘the other’ but now moving to anthropology of ‘self’ and issues which effect us. Since 70’s we have moved away from anthropology which used to be colonial. (would study anthropology to understand cultures to empower us, a science of ‘the other’)

 Situationalist in 1950’s think about ‘self’ in anthropological form as their work is completed embedded in their engagement with the environment and the city. Their objective was the encounter itself. They never aimed to even collect things from the outside world and bring them into a gallery space. ‘Situationalist wanted it to be art dialouge’. Their work is described as ‘Happenings’. Situationalists’ refused to show or perform anything for the art world as their work was the encounter of everyday life. Their manifesto was situationalist international  and citisied the surrealists. They were very left and said capitalism had manipulated the surrealists art.

Mauss ‘The gift’ – discusses potlatch about basics of contracts between social groups. Religious, mythological etc. This ‘gift’ is about status and how does society works.  You give yourself in giving other things. A social person is never just him or herself, you are constituted by everything around you and therefore your personage is formed by your distribution. Before the market exchange, the gift was the main form of exchange. 5000 years of debt’ by David Graver touches on how society is based on debt. Interestingly this is reflected in the Brexit negotiations which are also based around debt. Will British social structure break down because of leaving a group? The notion of the ‘gift’ – ritual which doesn’t actually mean ‘free gift’. What happened with these ideas of Mauss and the ‘gift’ as the internet opens up genuine exchange, or does it just open up communication which could not be genuine?

The idea of the gift is:

  • To give
  • To receive
  • To reciprocate.

(This is not always nicely done- its antagonist.)

  • Ethnography– studies humans making/replicating the social order through fieldwork.
  • Anthropology– to exam social structures and reproduction through analysing culture.

Alfred Gell asks: what is the function of art? Art is about action rather than representation. Many say that an artefact is defined by its function but that an artwork is its idea/concept but there is an argument that an artwork is the extension of a person. Anything which makes you think can be an artwork. It’s a work because it has ‘complex intentionality’ it’s a THOUGHT TRAP. The artist is already made up of everything surrounding her or him therefore surely their work is anthropological by nature?

Joseph Kosuth argues in ‘the artist as anthropologist’ that artist born to be an anthropologist, because the artist is outside of that community which he studies they are in  ‘Critical distance’. The artist becomes totally immersed, where as anthropologist is a scientist and as a scientist they are disengaged. His work sided with Enthrographical study which increased the notion of field work, living with the patterns of society. Malanovski and Mauss discussed how much to embed with locals or not. Sometimes people get too involved/ loose themselves in the other. Susan Hillar was criticised by getting too close because they thought she became too involved.