Landmarks:a review

Robert Macfarlane Landmarks (2015) London: Hamish Hamilton, 387pp. £20.00 rrp

 

Christopher Tilley, Department of Anthropology, University College London (c.tilley@ucl.ac.uk)

 

This is the fifth book by Macfarlane about British landscapes. The ‘landmarks’ of the title are not what one might expect: they are words. The book is about the power of words in place making. This reminds us that landscapes may be material topographic realities but they are simultaneously constituted in the mind. Traditionally, in academic debates, landscapes have been regarded as either reductively shaping the manner in which people think or blank slates on which people inscribe the way in which they think in more or less any way they like. In this respect their material topographies become mere backdrops to an understanding of the manner in which they are understood.…

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The No-Person

Over the past few weeks I have been working closely with London’s homeless community for my PhD fieldwork. As part of my role at the day centre where I conduct much of my research I have helped a number of people fill out the ubiquitous Job Seeker’s Allowance form – herein referred to as the JSA. The JSA is a standardised government form that applies not just to the homeless, but to anybody who is seeking financial support in the interim between jobs. At first glance then, there is nothing special about the JSA as a bureaucratic document. Filling out the JSA takes about twenty minutes and is generally done online. For the vast majority of people, filling out such a form would be, at the worst, extremely boring.…

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Social Museum Seoul: Review

Jane Yoonjeong Rhee, Slade School of Fine Art, UCL

 

“The Social Museum is a democratic space of civil society that envisions a neutral zone of values. We begin a chapter jointly to sympathise with our shared time, space, values, heritage, and the sense of indebtedness to the society.” (Translated from the Exhibition Text)

Social Museum is an annual conference that takes the museum as its conceptual parameters to capture and re-evaluate the urgencies in our society. The project is funded by Seoul City Hall and is part of the research program for the governmental plan of building Seoul Innovation Park in the centre of Seoul. In partnership with Seoul City Hall (Seoul Metropolitan Government), the development of the overall idea and the materialization of the event were led by the art director of Takeout Drawing & Museum, an alternative cafe-museum space located in Seoul.…

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Knyttan and the question of design autonomy

Lydia Maria Arantes | Visiting Researcher, Anthropology, UCL

 

http://www.somersethouse.org.uk/visual-arts/knyttan-factory-of-the-future source: www.somersethouse.org.uk/visual-arts/knyttan-factory-of-the-future ]

 

Have you ever wanted to design your own scarf, jumper or even tie, but can’t knit?‘ read the first sentence on the Somerset House website introducting Knyttan – Factory of the Future , currently based in the New Wing. Despite already knowing how to knit, I was nonetheless interested to what extent visitors of Knyttan would be granted involvement in the design process. Having been doing research on (hand) knitting for the past few years, I was obviously curious about this unusual combination of industrial production and individuality, and visited the Factory of the Future on February 28th 2015 to find out for myself.

Upon entering the room, I was immediately drawn to the garments laid out on the shelves and hung on the wall.…

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Sawdust and Threads

Laurie Ingram, Material And Visual Culture, UCL

 

Sawdust and Threads is a residency and exhibitions programms that takes de-accessioned museum objects as its material. Artist Caroline Wright has undertaken residencies at three different museum collections and selected objects that have been de-accessioned. For Sawdust and Threads, Caroline has made detailed drawings of each of these objects that are then carefully and painstakingly deconstructed. The drawings as well as the objects from the different collections accompany the artist in the space where the process of deconstruction unfolds. The project poses questions around the nature of museum collections. Who owns these objects and how is the value of an object defined? Is value being removed or re-ascribed during this process of deconstruction?

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Digital Politics in Mongolia

Lauren Bonilla, Rebekah Plueckhahn, Rebecca Empson, Department of Anthropology, University College London

This post is written by researchers on an ERC-funded project entitled ‘Emerging Subjects of the New Economy: Tracing Economic Growth in Mongolia’ based at the Department of Anthropology, University College London.

Our project focuses on the mineral-rich country of Mongolia, once heralded as the world’s fastest growing economy but now experiencing sharp economic slowdown. We trace the kinds of subjects and activities that are emerging out of this economy of flux – when promises of economic growth are continually referenced but never seem to materialize; when people are forced to live with the rhetoric of hope and potential which everyday reality never approximates – leading to alternative experiences and imaginaries.…

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Collecting Collections and digital ways of knowing

Haidy Geismar, UCL

Talpa sp, Mole, Adult, Z2754 UCL Grant Museum of Zoology, © 2014 UCL. CC BY-NC-SA license.

Talpa sp, Mole, Adult, Z2754
UCL Grant Museum of Zoology, © 2014 UCL. CC BY-NC-SA license.

 

Last term I taught parallel undergraduate and Masters seminars exploring the creation of knowledge systems in museums and the effects of shifts towards the digital on the organization of knowledge and museum epistemologies. All the students had to create a project that digitally presented a series of objects, drawn from across UCL Museums and Collections and created a new digital collection environment. The project aimed not to create an online exhibition but to think about the potentials, and limitations, of digital representation and modes of organization for creating knowledge about both specific objects and from the collecting together of different objects. The undergraduates had to digitally collect 5 objects using an open source platform supported and hosted by UCL (My Portfolio, built on Mahara).…

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Mimesis as Infection: Charlie Hebdo seen from the Indian Archive

Christopher Pinney, UCL Anthropology

 

The recent events in Paris have focused attention on the complex relationship between different varieties of Islam and the image. Historians will rightly point to a French tradition of anti-clerical satire that reaches back to Diderot’s Supplement to Bougainville’s Voyage of 1771, and which provides a frame through which Charlie Hebdo’s provocations make sense. I’ve taught Diderot’s brilliant critique of Christian missionary hypocrisy in an imaginary Tahiti over several years and remain fascinated how one needs to continually remind oneself that this is fiction, a mere “supplement”. Diderot’s central Tahitian character, Orou, is a powerful vindication of Diderot’s “foisting” technique in which he “takes over Bougainville’s Voyage shamelessly rewriting and falsifying it” inserting “speeches and arguments that for the ‘enlightened’ reader, seem to cry out so urgently to be spoken”.…

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Christmas Leftovers

Christmas Leftovers

Josh Burraway, Social Anthropology, UCL

 With the festive season chronologically behind us (and yet despairingly in front of us) we can breath a brief sigh of relief as we enter the new year. Or at least we think we can. Although the wrapping paper, discount champagne and dodgy fireworks have indeed been put away for another year, most of us are undoubtedly returning to our homes and into a decidedly uncanny space. If you are anything like me, the residual objects of the Christmas break will no doubt still be adorning the living room. The slowly withering tree in the corner, the wreath on the door that has overstayed its welcome, the flaccid bunting of Christmas tinsel hanging stubbornly to what will surely be its final resting place, and, most interestingly to me – the dense sea of Christmas cards that have colonised the mantelpiece since the fateful day that November mercilessly toppled into December.…

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Sonically Transforming Washi Paper

Jessica Knights, Material and Visual Culture MA, UCL Anthropology

 

While undertaking my Master’s in Material and Visual Culture in UCL’s anthropology department last year, I received a Heinz Wolff Materials Bursary to carry out a project at the University’s Institute of Making. My proposal was to explore the properties of Washi paper, a type of handmade paper made in Japan. Washi is made predominantly from the paper mulberry (kozo) tree by traditional methods, and has been used for diverse purposes; from raincoats to kimonos, aerial bombs to toilet paper (Barrett 1983). I first became interested in this material through bookbinding, and was struck by its strength and durability as much as its tactility, delicacy, and softness.

My approach was largely influenced by our course literature, in particular the work of Tim Ingold.…

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