OUT THERE - IN SIGHT
A critical history by means of ethnographic art and film practices
Hardly any other discipline had been under such heavy critic and remains persistent not least due to its variety of self-criticism and its divers attempts to expose and invert ironically its methodology and circumstances of production. Since the French avant-garde in the early 1930ties discovered their weakness for African Art there has been a long history and many divergent experiments by artists and filmmakers to perform the gap between academic knowledge production and a tempting, transgressing curiosity for foreign cultures and what has been called “the other”. Almost inevitably inscribed in this often well-intentioned explorative practice is a relation and notion of dominance and control coming along with its heritage of colonial history.
“Who is allowed to speak?” The critical inquiry around the power of interpretation which became virulent in the 1990ties, with artists such as Trinh T. Minh-ha, not only concerns the ethics of aesthetics but also exhibition practices and funding politics. With Catherine Davids documenta X the discourse around the “documentary turn” derived and overlapped with what Hal Foster once called the “ethnographic turn”, transforming the Benjaminian “author as producer” into “the artist as ethnographer. At the latest with Okwui Enwezors Triennale 2012 in Paris, “Intense Proximity”, lining up with the motto to “unlearn the notion that ethnography is necessarily ‘bad’”, one can see quite many contemporary artists succeeding rather unconcerned with often researched based projects one would have criticised as ethnographic twenty years ago. But the tools of critic seems to have hardly any effect and resonance anymore.
Instead, the field of exploration is shifting north, and an old rhetoric figure of colonial attitude, blanking out the space, just has been adopted to formulate the open call for the Antarctic Biennal 2017, arrving as an e-flux: "Antarctica is the last free continent. It belongs to no state and, according to international agreements, is intended exclusively for creative activities and scientific research in the interests of all of humanity. It is pure, hard to reach, and mysterious—like Art itself! The sixth continent resembles a white sheet of paper, upon which artists from different countries might draft new visions for life in the 21st Century."
Against the background of your own artistic practice and experience we will read critical theory, undertake historic excursions and will discuss intriguing and ambivalent works by artists, filmmakers and theorists such as Mathieu Kleyebe Abonnenc, John Akomfrah, Sven Augustijnen, Ariella Azoulay, Filipa Cesar, Claire Denis, Lav Diaz, Mohamed Fadlabi, Omer Fast, Louis Henderson, Peter Kubelka, Sharon Lockhart, Renzo Martens, Vincent Meessen, Trinh T. Min-ha, Issa Samb, Philip Scheffner, Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, Georg Tiller, Ana Vaz, Clemens von Wedemeyer, Tobias Zielony and others. Our goal is to develop a sensivity towards ethnographic aesthetics and politics and to work on criteria for a critical stance towards notions of the ethnographic.
[Image credit: "Arnulf Rainer" AT, 1960, by Peter Kubelka]
Kunstakademiet i Trondheim
Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)