Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Diary for May 22nd to May 28th 2008

THURSDAY MAY 22ND MAY – Fiesta Quest

Rumour has it Thursday is the new Friday so today I’m heading over to a talk at Canning House - the cultural centre based in East London – being given by writer Simon Pritchard all about fiestas... For several months he toured Spain attending local cultural festivities as part light-hearted anthropological investigation, part mid-life crisis. His experiences included vertigo-inducing pole climbing, and more masochistically being beaten with burning torches. Although the extent of his cultural analysis in his appreciation of the Spanish ‘genius for celebration’ remains to be seen, the endeavour does at the very least seem to have been done with a fair degree of participant-observation! And celebrations or rituals are frequently a way in for anthropologists to understand another culture, so it should be an intreseting and fresh perspective on the subject. The talk begins at 18.30 in Canning Town and entrance costs £7.

FRIDAY MAY 23RD MAY - Getting street for the camera

In an effort to boost Lucy’s street cred, today I’m off to a show of urban photography at the Tate Modern offering a pictorial history of both the street and studio, aiming to expose the differences in imagery that arise from using these two locations. Context and representation are of huge importance to anthropologists so anything that gets you thinking about those issues can’t help but be useful. Moreover, the collection includes work by photographers often studied on Visual Anthropology courses thanks to their sensitive approaches to the human subject, including Robert Mapplethorpe and Diane Arbus. Arbus has been labelled a producer of ‘contemporary anthropology’ because of her attempts to engage her subjects more closely and consciously in the photographic dialogue – you can read more in this article. Street & Studio is on until the end of August and entrance costs £8 for students.

SATURDAY MAY 24TH - Silk & Sculpture

Come Saturday I’ll be down at the Horniman Museum in South London for the start of two new, linked exhibitions. ‘China: Symbols in Silk’ does what it says on the tin – it’s a collection of historic silk textiles from the region, including clothing and religious items. It’s hosted in the Balcony Gallery, in combination with ‘A Mirrored Community’ in the Gallery Square - an art installation by artist ‘Hale Man’ in collaboration with the Chinese communities of South London. The works in this latter exhibition are inspired by the former, and also includes objects and photographs. Both run until the beginning of September – for more thoughts on the anthropology of clothes, also have a look at Monday’s entry.

SUNDAY MAY 25TH - Community with Chomsky

On Sunday I’m off to see a new exhibition at the Tate St. Ives by community artist Adam Chodsko. Over the past 17 years, he has put together an assortment of video, performance, posters, sculpture, sound, photography and other media, all created in collaboration with peripheral communities who “define themselves through their own rituals and folklore. He combines traditional inspiration with his own creative bent to tell stories about the communities’ lives, as well a fictional Carnival ritual imagined at some point in the future. The exhibition runs until 21st September and entrance is £5.75 or FREE if you’re under 18.

MONDAY MAY 26TH – Not just a hand-me-down

Back down at the Horniman today for another new exhibition – ‘India Recycled’ which looks at how cast-off clothes, as well as old saris (for those of you who don’t wear them already!), are recycled in northern India. The journey of the clothes is told through photographs and is based on some recent anthropological fieldwork, which looked at how clothing is passed between different social and economic groups, and how in doing so how its ‘value’ alters depending on the owner. You might also want to have a read of ‘Old Clothes, New Looks’ which examines the history of trading in second hand clothes throughout the ages, including examples from places as diverse as Ireland, Zambia and Hong Kong, and movements from ‘vintage’ in the USA to ‘neo-mod retro-sixties German subculture’. Sounds funky. The exhibition runs until 25th January next year, and entrance is FREE – make sure you look out for associated events on the blog in the coming months.

TUESDAY MAY 27TH - Doing the Gormley-Sutra

Anthony Gormley, the famous British artist who draws a lot of his inspiration from his studies and interest in anthropology, returns tonight with a performance piece in which he has collaborated with other well-renowned composers and choreographers. ‘Sutra’ is showing at Sadler’s Wells in London, showcasing the agility and abilities of Buddhist Shaolin Monks. Gormley was instrumental in providing the environment for the show, which runs until Saturday at 19.30, with tickets on sale from £10 upwards. You can watch clips of the show here and also on youtube, as well as reading an article about the subject here.

Also, a reminder today that places for the London Anthropology Day 2008 are almost full up. The day is a fantastic opportunity to learn why Gormley and others (see above) were so inspired and fascinated by anthropology with a series of introductory workshops and talks. To book your place, and also learn more about other valuable resources on the subject, check out the website for lots of information.

WEDNESDAY MAY 28TH - Eternal stories

As I mentioned on last week’s blog, stories and storytelling are crucial to many societies since they act as a way for the members to understand themselves and each other. For outsiders they also provide a really useful way of learning how those communities work. Today, there’s a fantastic opportunity to hear two Native American storytellers from Lakota in the USA, Robert Owens-Greygrass and Dovie Thomason, narrating their traditional tales. Their stories explore the whole spectrum of existence, from the differences between men and women, to those between earth and sky – acting as an “essential place where dreams, magic, stories and reality meet.” Tonight in The Barbican at 19.30, Owens-Greygrass will be singing ‘An Evening of Gifts’ - songs about balancing an unbalanced world – which is also preceded by a talk with two other experts about the impact of Native American literature on oral & written traditions across the globe. Attendance for the evening costs £9 for adults and £6 for students.