Archive | Art, Literature and Poetry

The Absent Stone

Sandra Rozental, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana-Cuajimalpa,
Mexico City
La Replica
The Absent Stone (2013) is a documentary film that combines contemporary ethnographic filmmaking, animation and a wide range of found footage and archival visual materials to tell the story of the largest single-stone sculpture in the Americas, and how it was transported from a village in the Texcoco area to one of Mexico City’s busiest streets. In 1964, the sculpture, which archaeologists believe to be a pre-Columbian rain deity, was forcefully removed from Coatlinchan following military intervention. Using national patrimony laws to justify the extraction, the state repurposed the 167-ton carving as a monument marking the entrance of the newly-built National Anthropology Museum. The engineers and architects in charge of the feat were stunned when the sculpture’s arrival resulted in one of the most abundant rainfalls the city has ever seen during its alleged dry season.…
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The Anti-Camera

Christopher Pinney, UCL Anthropology

I recently came across M.N. Srinivas’ observation that his enthusiastic engagement with photography, during his fieldwork in Mysore in the late 1940s, earned him the nickname “chamara man”. He notes that in Kannada chamara denotes whisks made of the long hair from a yak’s tails used by servants to keep flies away from Rajas and by priests to preserve the purity of icons.

In the Madhya Pradesh village where I have worked intermittently since 1982 you will hear echoes of the metaphor that informs the South Indian description of Srinivas as “chamara man”. For instance, Jagdish Sharma, the pujari of the Krishna temple once joked that my video camera embodied “yantra, mantra, [and] tantra”, yantra being the design (“made in Japan”), mantra being the information it stored, and tantra being the magic of technology (its “mashinari”).…

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The Story of Seething & being a little bit Stupid

David Jeevendrampillai, UCL Anthropology

Image 1: The Story of Seething Exhibition. Jan - May 2015. UCL Anthropology (Photo Credit: Timothy Carroll).

Image 1: The Story of Seething Exhibition. Jan – May 2015. UCL Anthropology (Photo Credit: Timothy Carroll).

UCL promotes itself as a leading global university and frequently ranks amongst the top institutions in the world; it also houses the UK’s largest Anthropology department. The department has an international reputation as a leader in Anthropological research with a particular history and strength in material culture studies. Upon entering the department’s central London campus one is greeted by a reception replete with well-lit display cases which house exhibitions of current UCL research and items from the extensive and rich Ethnographic Collection.

In the final months of writing my PhD I was invited to organise an exhibition using the three main cabinets in the foyer of the department.…

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Landmarks: a review

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

 

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

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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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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Cyclone Pam – Support Vanuatu

Haidy Geismar, UCL

As I’m sure you are all aware, last week Vanuatu was devastated by Cyclone Pam, battering the country with winds of over 270 mph. The storm knocked out the country’s telecommunications and transport infrastructure and now, just a few days later, it is estimated that more then 70% of the population are left homeless, without adequate drinking water, and without food. The long term prospects for food security are also bad as most of the garden crops that people live off have been destroyed. President Baldwin Lonsdale has announced that the storm had “wiped out” recent development and that “everything” would have to be rebuilt.

Vanuatu is the place that I have worked as an anthropologist since 2000.…

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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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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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Exhibit B

Probing further: the untormented “white body”

Exhibit B

Protesters gather at the Vaults Gallery during a rally that led to Exhibit B by South African artist Brett Bailey being cancelled. Photograph: Thabo Jaiyesimi/Demotix/Corbis

How does one review an exhibition that has been banned from public view? The censorship of Exhibit B earlier this year in London constitutes yet another interesting visual and performative episode in Brett Bailey’s controversial saga currently touring Europe, as his ‘tableaux vivants’ or living displays of black performers in various scenes (supposedly) representative of slavery and colonialism gave rise to impassioned protest and resulted in its closure.

What this controversy reveals for critique, more than it has censored for content, is the problematic format of performance in today’s art scene.…

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Disobedient Objects

Hannah Knox, Lecturer in Digital Anthropology and Material Culture, UCL Anthropology

Zapatistas. Attribution: Nathan Gibbs https://flic.kr/p/3eMx1h Licensed under Creative Commons.

Zapatistas. Attribution: Nathan Gibbs
flic.kr/p/3eMx1h
Licensed under Creative Commons.

 

In 1996 I worked in Mexico for eight months and during my time there visited the famous village of San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas. One of my abiding memories of San Cristobal was of the women from the village who were selling artisanal products to tourists on cloths laid out on the floor in the square in front of the church. Whilst the sale of artisanal objects was commonplace in Mexican villages, in amongst the traditional traditionally dressed dolls I had been surprised to see dolls sporting cloth balaclavas and guns. The dolls were a homage to Subcomandante Marcos and the 1994 uprising of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) against the Mexican government and its signing of the NAFTA free trade agreement with the United States.…

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