MA Contemporary Art Theory

MA Contemporary Art Theory

Re-imagining the Art School Since 2001

Collaborative Inquiry: Preparation for Week 3 The Anthropology of (Contemporary) Art

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Mandatory Reading for Week 3

Anthropologies of (Contemporary) Art

All students should read:

Morphy, Howard and Perkins, Morgan., ‘The Anthropology of Art: A Reflection on its History and Contemporary Practice’ in The Anthropology of Art : A Reader, edited by Howard Morphy, and Morgan Perkins, John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated, 2006. (link)

McClanahan, Baxstrom, van Oldenbourg’s ‘Factish Field’ in Collective ed. Towards A City Observatory: Constellations of art, collaboration and locality, Edinburgh: Collective, 2017, p143-174 (link) which was part of the Collective/Lux symposium, Factish Field 21 February 2014 https://www.collective-edinburgh.art/programme/2014-factish-field (link)

Download Factish Field PDF 📖 here

“This chapter outlines Collective’s timely and ongoing interest both in anthropologically inflected art, as well as anthropological work influenced by art practice, which traverses precisely these issues. In outlining the aims, content and structure of the [Collective] institution’s Factish Field project, the aim here is, on the one hand, to summarise current thinking between the two fields, but also to identify as yet under represented themes and concepts that continue to emerge from ongoing collaborations.”

(McClanahan 2017: 145)


You should then read the text allocated to your breakout group:

Bespoke Reading for Week 3:

Anthropologies of (Contemporary) Art

Each group will work through a different set-text. The texts focus either on how anthropologists have approached contemporary art or on anthropological work influenced by art practice . You should only read one of the texts below. Read the text that matches your colour.

Red Group 🔴

Sansi, Roger., ‘The Recursivity of the Gift in Art and Anthropology’, in Bakke, Gretchen, and Peterson, Marina, eds. 2017. Between Matter and Method : Encounters in Anthropology and Art. London: Taylor & Francis Group. Accessed January 20, 2021. ProQuest Ebook Central. https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/ed/detail.action?docID=5164055.

Yellow Group 🟡

Mayer, Danila., ‘2.2. How Global Art Came to Istanbul: The Context of the Istanbul Biennal’, in Thomas Fillitz & Paul van der Grijp, eds. 2020. An Anthropology of Contemporary Art, London: Taylor and Francis.

Green Group 🟢

de Cordova, Dayana Zdebsky., ‘3.2 Brazil’s Booming Art Market: Calculations, Images, and the Promotion of a Market of Contemporary Art’ in Thomas Fillitz & Paul van der Grijp, eds. 2020. An Anthropology of Contemporary Art, London: Taylor and Francis.

Over the following week please also try to do the following:


Pickpocket Almanac | Fieldwork to complete over Week 2

Anthropologies of (Contemporary) Art

This week, please visit the Collective Gallery in the City Observatory Calton Hill, Edinburgh.

#1 Field notes: try to create some field notes when you are visiting the Collective Gallery, the City Observatory and Calton Hill.

Q. What are ‘field notes’?

A. See Fieldwork in the Resource List. This is a particularly useful primer on the whole

e.g. Danelo, D.J. (2017) The Field Researcher’s Handbook: A Guide to the Art and Science of Professional Fieldwork. Washington, District of Columbia, Georgetown University Press.

but any of the sources under Fieldwork in the Resource List will be helpful.

For a very fast introduction to field notes (from an anthropological perspective) take a 👀 at museumfatigue.org‘s post on Michael Taussig‘s field notes book I Swear I Saw This: Drawings in Fieldwork Notebooks, Namely My Own (University of Chicago Press 2011). See: https://museumfatigue.org/2014/03/17/michael-taussig-on-field-notebooks-i-swear-i-saw-this/

#2 Collective Gallery and anthropology?:

Try to find out more about the Collective Gallery’s engagement with anthropology when you are there – for example, what works have them commissioned in relation to the site they are in (Calton Hill?)

Are there any elements of their current artistic programme you can view through the ‘factish field’ lens discussed by Angela McClanahan in the ‘Factish Field’ essay? See: https://www.collective-edinburgh.art/programme/2014-factish-field

Add your #1 Field notes and #2 your thoughts on the Collective Gallery and anthropology to your Portfolio (WordPress Student Blog Tool).


Image: Michael Taussig’s fieldnote from his book I Swear I Saw This: Drawings in Fieldwork Notebooks, Namely My Own (University of Chicago Press 2011).

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