The aim of this chapter is to reflect on differences and similarities connecting and dividing anthropological ethnography and curating practices. Theoretical issues will be treated by making reference to museum anthropology and curatorial studies, and drawing inspiration from the author fieldwork on arts and collecting practices in Cameroon Grassfields, from his curatorship of traditional African arts collections and exhibitions, and from his collaborations with contemporary art curators in the context of artistic-ethnographic actions projects carried out in Italy. From a certain point of view, we can assert that curatorship is an integral part of the anthropological tradition, from its beginning: it is related to the history of ethnographic museum, even if anthropology grew up, leaving the museum for the field. Nevertheless, today, when we speak about “curatorial”, we mostly make reference to the contemporary art “curatorial turn” occurred in the ‘90s, then the curator job became something more complex than caring for works or mounting exhibitions, transforming the curator in a social mediator and a cultural producer, who works on cultural diversity and inclusion. This change has created a space of proximity and competition with anthropologists, and specifically with museum anthropologists. Today anthropology, pushed by the transition toward the “post-ethnographic museum”, and pressed by the ubiquitous cultural influence of contemporary art in our society, is probably facing its own “curatorial turn”. This event can be seen as an opportunity for anthropology, but also feared as a mortal danger, insofar as the curatorial appears to be part of a general trend toward a growing commodification of cultures, and toward an aestheticization and musealization of society. The reference to ethnography made in contemporary art curating culture, does not often go beyond a rhetorical means to emphasize the cultural implications of the artworks displayed or the artistic “actions” carried out, co-opting in this way cultural diversity into the global art system. In conclusion we can say that between curatorship and anthropological work there are many intersections and overlaps but no identity at all. For anthropologists, the crucial point consists in treating the curating in relation to the field: using exhibitions as an ethnographic field, working ethnographically around collections and collecting cultures, and leaving museums and exhibitions for social fields which, in the end, remain external to them.

Bargna, I. (2020). Facing the ‘Curatorial Turn': Anthropological Ethnography, Exhibitions, and Collecting Practices. In R. Sansi (a cura di), The Anthropologist as Curator (pp. 73-96). Bloomsbury.

Facing the ‘Curatorial Turn': Anthropological Ethnography, Exhibitions, and Collecting Practices

Bargna, I
2020

Abstract

The aim of this chapter is to reflect on differences and similarities connecting and dividing anthropological ethnography and curating practices. Theoretical issues will be treated by making reference to museum anthropology and curatorial studies, and drawing inspiration from the author fieldwork on arts and collecting practices in Cameroon Grassfields, from his curatorship of traditional African arts collections and exhibitions, and from his collaborations with contemporary art curators in the context of artistic-ethnographic actions projects carried out in Italy. From a certain point of view, we can assert that curatorship is an integral part of the anthropological tradition, from its beginning: it is related to the history of ethnographic museum, even if anthropology grew up, leaving the museum for the field. Nevertheless, today, when we speak about “curatorial”, we mostly make reference to the contemporary art “curatorial turn” occurred in the ‘90s, then the curator job became something more complex than caring for works or mounting exhibitions, transforming the curator in a social mediator and a cultural producer, who works on cultural diversity and inclusion. This change has created a space of proximity and competition with anthropologists, and specifically with museum anthropologists. Today anthropology, pushed by the transition toward the “post-ethnographic museum”, and pressed by the ubiquitous cultural influence of contemporary art in our society, is probably facing its own “curatorial turn”. This event can be seen as an opportunity for anthropology, but also feared as a mortal danger, insofar as the curatorial appears to be part of a general trend toward a growing commodification of cultures, and toward an aestheticization and musealization of society. The reference to ethnography made in contemporary art curating culture, does not often go beyond a rhetorical means to emphasize the cultural implications of the artworks displayed or the artistic “actions” carried out, co-opting in this way cultural diversity into the global art system. In conclusion we can say that between curatorship and anthropological work there are many intersections and overlaps but no identity at all. For anthropologists, the crucial point consists in treating the curating in relation to the field: using exhibitions as an ethnographic field, working ethnographically around collections and collecting cultures, and leaving museums and exhibitions for social fields which, in the end, remain external to them.
Capitolo o saggio
curatorship; museums anthropology; exhibitions; ethnography; anthropology of art
English
The Anthropologist as Curator
Sansi, R
2020
9781350081918
Bloomsbury
73
96
Bargna, I. (2020). Facing the ‘Curatorial Turn': Anthropological Ethnography, Exhibitions, and Collecting Practices. In R. Sansi (a cura di), The Anthropologist as Curator (pp. 73-96). Bloomsbury.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/10281/256349
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