With his seminal essay ‘The artist as ethnographer?’, Hal Foster () put the. ‘ ethnographic turn’ in contemporary art high on the agenda of cultural studies. Reading: Hal Foster: The Artist as Ethnographer. Some Key Points: Assumption that the site of artistic transformation is the site of political. The Artist as Ethnographer? Hal Foster. I. THE ARTIST AS ETHNOGRAPHER? assumptions lead to another point of connection with the Be~amin account of the.

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These experimental modes arrist documenting help to elucidate the intersection of postwar subjectivity and the mundane experience of geopolitical processes. Westmoreland’ – the figure he was supposedly investigating in ‘The Post Script Project’.

Views Read Edit View history. For those artists who have appropriated ethnography within their practices, Foster’s critique is three-fold. Ethnography is the scientific description of the customs of peoples and cultures. My narrative of the fictitious artist Marhaba Tata should help us begin to question this paradigm. While he interrogates the meaning of a diplomatic mission and the ubiquitous presence of American expatriates living in the Middle East, one cannot help but be struck by the ordinary ways in which these individuals talk about their experience.

First, it is an attempt to parody the aesthetics of ficto-criticism recurrent in Lebanese experimental documentary, which asserts new methodologies for analysing histories of violence by appropriating mundane archival objects and imbuing them with a radical affective force of fabulated narratives. He refused to talk to me more about his project and said he had to leave quickly for another appointment. Since the subjects of my research already scrutinize this problematic relationship, this endeavour aims to take ownership fosterr my own troubling positionality, as an American arrist working in the Middle East, in order to redefine the terms of this scrutiny, and to open myself to my research subjects in a way that does not retreat into a confession of identity politics, but instead attempts to articulate the affective forces of doing fieldwork in a complicated political terrain and to think about how these forces crystallize in the making of particular ethnographic imaginaries.


Collective: Reading: Hal Foster: The Artist as Ethnographer

fosterr University of California Press, Transidioethnography is a neologism conceived in England to describe a transdisciplinary practice that fuses autoethnographic field work, ethnographic practice and multimedia arts. The book presents a strong argument for encouraging artists and anthropologists to learn directly from each other’s practices ‘in the field’. Looking into these court documents, I made a startling discovery. Firstly, he suggests that these artists presume that ‘the site of artistic transformation is the site of political transformation’, which presumes that the site of political transformation is ‘elsewhere’ among the ‘cultural other, the oppressed postcolonial, subaltern, or subcultural’.

As a fellow anthropologist, I want to suggest another area of enquiry, which is concerned with ethnographic aesthetics and affective modes of knowledge production, an area of theory that visual anthropologists, ethnomusicologists and anthropologists of the etthnographer and the body have been developing in recent years.

The first two initials of the bag’s owner clearly connect to Tata’s evocation of a postscript.

Ethnogfapher order to demonstrate this, I want to engage here withthe oeuvre of a little-known experimental filmmaker working in Beirut who goes by the name of Marhaba Tata.

Monday, July 19, Reading: Westmoreland as a child swept up into cosmopolitan geopolitics. For many artists, like Walid Raad, Lamia Joreige, Jalal Toufic, Tony Chakar, among many others, their work conjures the impossible in order to undercut the taken-for-granted assumptions about representational possibilities. The impossibility of representing the political violence in Lebanon is of course debatable in the strict sense, however, more than the idea of a prohibited practice, ‘impossibility’ serves as a critical muse.

Ibraaz 5th Anniversary Ibraaz. In conclusion, I return to the epigraph that started this essay. He notes that as the author is bound to her patron, so, often is the artist bound to her sponsor, who may re-code the work as public engagement or even ‘self-critique’, inoculating it from critique from outside the institution. It doesn’t ethnnographer this productivist problematic enough, because it tends to preserve the structure of the political, to retain the notion of a subject of history, to define this position in terms of truth and to locate this truth in terms of alterity.

Assumption that the site of artistic transformation is the site of political transformation. Second, I utilize this etynographer to draw attention to the way taken for granted personal histories reverberate with over-determined historical narratives, and yet, by playing with the frequency of this reverberation, narrative can ultimately critique cross-cultural representation and geopolitics through the retelling of the mundane as it intersects with the imaginary.


This critical distance doesn’t provide time to see the past more objectively, but rather to see the way ideas, images and objects from the past refract in the present in ethnograpyer that elucidate the social and political imaginaries. From the flurry of interest emanating from exhibitions, publications, and other initiatives since September 11, anthropologist Kirsten Scheid infers that ‘all signs suggest an imminent flourishing in the study of contemporary Arab art’.

The prefix “trans” suggests liminalitya quality of ‘in between-ness’, ethnographeer cultures ‘in between’ predominant cultures.

In other words, the impossibility of representing the traumatic past is met by creative approaches to understanding the remnants of the past in the present.

Could Marhaba Tata’s interest in these objects and their ability to create fantastical conspiracy narratives also be motivating the CIA? As such, this child remains a ghostly figure in Tata’s productions, only appearing in archival footage.

Art passed into the expanded field of culture that anthropology is thought to survey.


These documentary endeavours are efforts to make manifest the imaginaries that haunt a landscape of forgetfulness, amnesia and impossible representations. When he learned my name, however, he became instantly excitable and seemed rather suspicious. Du Zhenjun, The Tower of Babel: It is particularly important to consider these new aa of ‘reality’ in societies that have undergone forms of violence or trauma that undercut realist notions of truth and evidence.

Retrieved from ” https: Why this prestige of anthropology in contemporary art? I later learned that he was telling people that the CIA, presumably referring to me, had interrogated him and demanded the return of the bag and its contents featured in his films.