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I went to a talk by Dr Amanda Ravetz at Castlefield Gallery in Manchester last night.

She was talking about her research into the relationships between art and anthropology. Doing a PhD in a sociology department as an artist this is something I’ve been interested in, the tensions between the two disciplines, and at what point I am ‘being an artist’ or ‘being a sociologist’ or being neither, or being both. Ravetz discussion of art and anthropology pointed to anthropological studies of art, but also other writing around relationships between the two, initially with Hal Fosters ‘Artist as Ethnographer’, but then the Tate Fieldworks: Dialogues between art and anthropology symposium in 2003 , and her own AHRC funded project ‘Connecting art and anthropology’ which brought together artists and anthropologists to explore the differences and similarities in practice. During this workshop artists and anthorpologists asked each other what their practice could not exist without – for artists it was the notion of practice and of an artwork, for anthropologists it was people, or the social world. Questions that came up in her workshop included ‘what do artists desire of anthropology’ and ‘why is there  perceived to be a special relationship between art and anthropology?’ – (and these kinds of questions came up from the audience at this event too). There was also a perception that aritsts are more comfortable reflecting on their personal experience, where as anthropology’s disciplinary boundaries discourage this kind of subjective reflection (although its inescapable, its not foregrounded in the way and artist would be able to).

Ravetz discussed Tim Ingold‘s view that anthropology can be pursued by anthropologists, artists, deisgners, architects, and dissolves some of the differences between the disciplines. Contrasted with Schneider and Wright‘s view that there are some borders betweena art and anthropology that can be crossed. In her view however it is wrong to dismiss the gaps and tensions between the two disciplines, and it is precisely in these gaps, the space inbetween, that is volatile and charged,  that collaborations can happen. There can be no collaboration without difference, and adding up the fields reduces complexity.

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