Artful Encounters: conversations on ethnography, art and conservation
Although highly critical of its colonialist connotations, many artists today employ methods that traditionally belong to the academic discipline of anthropology. They claim to use ethnography as an integral component of their artistic practice (Foster, 1999; Desai, 2002). Those studying the arts (academic disciplines such as art history, cultural studies, etc., as well as more “applied” disciplines such as conservation) may use these very same ethnographic methods to understand and deal with art worlds (Morphy & Perkins, 2006; Van Saaze, 2009).
Understanding contemporary art today therefore increasingly asks for an approach that is sensitive to local and changeable meanings, to process and the ephemeral qualities of works-in-progress, and to the ways in which the public sphere can become an arena for artistic investigation. This website aims to become an arena for encounters between ethnographic artists, ethnographers of art, and conservation ethnographers within this methodological hall of mirrors. Of special interest is the process of documentation within ethnographies. How do ethnographers hold what they find? Methodology-handbooks as well as reflections about fieldwork discuss exhaustively the art and pitfalls of note-taking, interpretation, categorization, narration, and writing. Yet, the variety of means of documentation is much greater and different styles of documentation allow for different effects.
On this website, we would like to examine the interesting overlaps between academic ethnography on the one hand and artistic practice in its broadest sense – both its process and its conservation – on the other hand. As hosts of this site, we do so by documenting our own initiatives, and sharing insights and news. We also would like to invite you to enter into our conversations.
The website is hosted by Karel Vanhaesebrouck, Renée van de Vall, Vivian van Saaze (from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Maastricht University), Peter Peters, Ruth Benschop (from the Research centre Autonomy and the Public Sphere in the Arts / Zuyd University), and Sarah de Rijcke (from the Virtual Knowledge Studio).