For artist, read ethnographer

Now that I have finished my foundation degree I find myself wallowing in a void of directionless thinking while I wait for my ‘top-up’ at Wolverhampton to start in the autumn.

That's my life at the moment

That’s my life at the moment

Actually, that’s not strictly true. I have the History Makers video project to do and I have started working on this including working on a few experiments such as old hand gives young hand a poppy and names and objects. It seems, I can’t sit still.

I lasted four days before I started an ‘interim reflective journal’ recording my thoughts and notes on readings. If I have learnt one thing from my foundation degree (in fact I’ve learnt a lot) then I’ve learnt the joy of reflecting and writing.

I’m currently reading a fascinating book by an author I was introduced to during the Contextual Studies tutorials at college: Stuff by Daniel Miller. Daniel Miller is an anthropologist, not an artist. The book is about anthropology, or perhaps more accurately, ethnography, it is not even remotely about art. I needed to start a new ‘reflective journal’ to make notes from this book. The main topic of this book is ‘stuff’ and it contains a number of lengthy essays on ‘stuff’ and what ‘stuff’ is, why we need it and how we relate to it. This is a very ‘me’ book. I am fascinated with ‘stuff’. By stuff I mean both the tangible and intangible objects in our lives.

Daniel Miller - the man who studies things

Daniel Miller – the man who studies things

Why, as an artist, am I finding a book about ethnography so fascinating? I think this is because many artists (especially in this century) are quasi-ethnographers (I can’t possibly claim we are fully-fledged ethnographers). We study people and culture. We wish we were brave enough to ask the things that real ethnographers can ask. We wish we had the academic kudos to delve deep into the lives of people. Many artists are able to do this (and I hope I have been able to, to a limited degree, with my most recent projects). There has even been academic discussion about the ‘ethnographic turn’ in art since the 1960s. In fact, I feel a strange sense of deja vu.

Art is a discipline that crosses into others, and for me that is social science (perhaps for other artists it crosses into other disciplines).

My unputadownable book

My unputadownable book

I’ve always been interested in people and this has been reflected in my reading matter of the past. I feel quite a lot of joy now that I can connect that interest with my other pleasure in life: art.

A classic: one of my favourite books

A classic: one of my favourite books – a book of vignettes of people who run lighthouses

I don’t know what direction my art is going to take next but I hope it stays with people and their quirks. This may not be a new phenomena in art but its one that I am happy to be a part of.


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