Longitudes

Recommended listening and reading material on the so-called "anthropological turn" in contemporary art


Installation view of Mariana Castillo Deball's work "It rises or falls depending on whether you're coming or going. If you are leaving, it's uphill; but as you arrive it's downhill" (2006) in the Latitudes-curated exhibition "Extraordinary Rendition" at NoguerasBlanchard in 2007. Photo: Roberto Justamante.

One of the many interesting events that took place during Frieze week, was a panel discussion titled "Adventures in the Field: The Anthropological Turn" (from there you can download the audio or mp3 file) moderated by Beirut-based writer Kaelen Wilson-Goldie with the participation of artists Iman Issa (Cairo & New York) and Naeem Mahaiemen (Dhaka & New York), and curator Dieter Roelstraete (Senior Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago).

As Frieze magazine's Associate Editor Christy Lange explained in her introduction, the discussion followed on Wilson-Goldie's recent feature "The Stories They Need" published in the October issue of Frieze magazine, where the writer digs into the notions previously raised in Roelstraete's well-read essay "The Way of the Shovel: On the Archeological Imaginary in Art" (2009, e-flux journal). Her text also brings in new artists names whose work have reflected an interest in the tools and methods of anthropology, including some of the participating artists in Roelstraete's recent show 'The Way of the Shovel: Art as Archaeology' (Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, 9 Nov 2013–9 Mar 2014), an exhibition that continued to delve on the subject of artists involvement with anthropology that will seem to take curator to his grave, as he himself stated during the panel.

During the discussion, both Roelstraete and Wilson-Goldie refer to the so-called "anthropological turn" or "historiographical turn", as a sequel to the "archaeological turn", the "educational turn" and many other turns (from Hal Foster's "ethnographical" or "archival" impulses, to the narrative, the pedagogical, the documentary, the social, the relational, the curatorial...the many turns) that have succeeded one another in recent art production – and as he also points out they all get mentioned preceded by "so called...".

 

Detail of Mariana Castillo Deball's work "It rises or falls depending on whether you're coming or going. If you are leaving, it's uphill; but as you arrive it's downhill" (2006). Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Roberto Justamante.

But why this impulse of looking back? As Roelstraete suggested in his presentation, it might respond to the fact that our present has been so depressing (Ebola, Isis, Ukranian crisis) and oppressive (from Bush's regime onwards through the 2008 global economic crisis) so artists can almost be forgiven for wanting to look back. Artist Naeem Mohaiemen, clarified that artists don't look back to hide from the present but that the present is too brief, it's not over, and meanwhile looking back allows them to shed light on a particular long-time span hoping to have an impact on thinking about that particular moment. To conclude Roelstraete noted that the impulse artists might follow is because they want to "leave the studio to go to the museum (or the kunsthalle)".

  Installation view of Simon Fujiwara's "The Museum of Incest" at the 2009 "Provenances" at the Latitudes-curated exhibition at Umberto di Marino, Naples. Photo: Danilo Donzelli.


Wilson-Goldie's text concludes that the artists as anthropologist is most likely "a storyteller or fabulist using the techniques of anthropology to tell again or tell differently, a story of encounter." This has certainly been very much on our minds as well as in the conversations we have maintained with the artists we have worked with in projects such as "Provenances" (2009 at Galleria Umberto di Marino, Naples) or "Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes ..." (2011, Meessen de Clercq, Brussels), and of course with other artists we have met in recent months.
 

This resonates in with a notion that has been stuck in our heads for a while and that emerged during Sean Lynch's lecture last September at Halfhouse's workshop: that of the artist' work as a "meaning place". He explained that for him when an exhibition ends the work becomes a conversation, and that those residues and the way they circulate can often be far more interesting than its intrinsic parts.
  
View of Kasper Akhoj's "Abstracta" at the 2011 Latitudes-curated exhibition "Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes & des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne" at Meessen de Clercq, Brussels. Photo: Philippe de Gobert.

On an archaeological note, a project called "The Materiality of the Invisible" looks intriguing. It is a fellowship run by the Jan van Eyck instigated within the framework of NEARCH, a European network of archaeological institutes and university departments. The following artists and art collectives have been selected out of some 300 applicants: Leyla Cardenas, Joey Bryniarska, Martin Westwood, Matthew Wilson, Rossella Biscotti and Klaas van Gorkum & Iratxe Jaio, the latter with whom we have collaborated (in the exhibition series Amikejo in 2011 and a solo show at ADN Platform earlier this year). The fellowship "offers a hitherto unknown opportunity to research in practice the interaction between artists and archaeologists, to work together in close confines, to profoundly exchange information and to thoroughly questioning both professions in an age of change and fluctuating cultural attitudes".



Above: Iratxe Jaio & Klaas van Gorkum, "Work in Progress" (2013). Video (14’ 22”), 739 polyurethane sculptures, and 47 moulds. View of their exhibition "The Margins of the Factory" at ADN Platform, 25 January–30 April 2014. Photos: Roberto Ruiz.


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Founded in 2005 by Max Andrews and Mariana Cánepa Luna, Latitudes is a curatorial office based in Barcelona, Spain, that works internationally across contemporary art practices.

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2005—2019