Archive | Objects and visual analyses

Occasional Paper 5: Mr Coperthwaite – a life in the Maine Woods

Anna Grimshaw, Emory University

Bill with magnifying glass

In 1960, Bill Coperthwaite bought 300 acres of wilderness in Machiasport, Maine.

Influenced by the poetry of Emily Dickinson and by the back to the land movement of Scott and Helen Nearing, Bill Coperthwaite was committed to what he called“a handmade life.”   For over fifty years until his death in 2013, he lived and worked in the forest. He was a builder of yurts, and a maker of spoons, bowls and chairs.

I met Bill Coperthwaite not long after I bought a house in Machiasport.   He was, of course, well-known to local people, many of whom affectionately recalled childhood adventures of exploring and working in the woods with Bill.   But he was also something of an international figure, drawing visitors to Dickinson’s Reach from different parts of the world.…

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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. The places I have worked – Port Vila, Malakula, Ambrym – via the networks set in place by the Vanuatu Cultural Centre have all been either badly damaged or destroyed.…

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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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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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The Material Culture of the Boxer – a post-fieldwork reflection

[By Pete Lockwood, a former MSc Social Anthropology student (2013-14) from UCL]

peter.lockwood.13@ucl.ac.uk

 CNV00021

 

When I conducted fieldwork in an Essex boxing gym for my MSc dissertation in Social Anthropology over the summer months of 2014, like a lot of other fieldworkers might do, I was reading bits of theory that seemed to speak to my emerging ethnographic data. Because my fieldwork was still going on, I ended up thinking about a few ideas that ultimately never made it into my dissertation. In the end, my argument turned out to be about the self, and the forms of practical “poiesis” through which the self is transformed in boxing (cf. Herzfeld 1985). But in building an argument about the relationship between the “sensori-motor conduct” of sport – practical activity that is inherently perceptual and has effects on human beings as subjects (Warnier 2009: 465) – and notions of personhood in a Western social context, I perhaps didn’t do enough justice to the “material culture” that “props up” sensori-motoricity as a principle of being-in-the-world (Warnier 2007: 1-3).…

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Trees and Fairy Lights

Timothy Carroll, UCL Anthropology

Source: http://www.london-attractions.info/trafalgar-square-christmas-tree.htm Source: www.london-attractions.info/trafalgar-square-christmas-tree.htm

London’s Trafalgar Square holds a rather central spot in the festival seasons of the city. Early in December, as it has since 1947, it again played host to a towering conifer gifted to the people of Britain by the city of Oslo, Norway, in appreciation for their help during World War II. With some press announcement about the tree fresh in my head, I left London to attend the Anthropological Association in America, held this year in Washington D.C. There, by matter of course, I happened upon an other Norwegian Christmas Tree, this one tucked in corner near the Metro entrance (the West Carriage Porch, to be exact) of Union Station. This one is given by the people of Norway to the United States as a gift of appreciation for the assistance given to Norway during and after World War II, a long established tradition going back, the Union Station says, to 1996.…

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Exploring Digital-Visual Anthropological Research Methods: www.photoblogsiran.com

[This is an invited post from a PhD student working at Oxford University, accompanied by a series of comments about visual methods from PhD students working at UCL]

Shireen Walton, PhD candidate in Anthropology, Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford

shireen.walton@sant.ox.ac.uk

Oxford Digital Ethnography Group (OxDEG)/www.facebook.com/groups/OXDEG/

 

In June 2013, after nine months of ethnographic fieldwork researching Iranian popular photographic practices in Iran, the UK and online, my principal participants (Iranian photobloggers, based inside and outside of Iran) and I discussed the idea of co-curating a digital photography exhibition of their work. The idea of developing an innovative, site-specific methodology emerged during the research process, but seemed appropriate given that a) it reflected what photobloggers do – they create digital exhibition spaces in the form of photoblogs to share their photographs with viewers across the world – and b) it would establish a relevant digital environment in which to participate and observe their practices.…

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