Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Diary for 11th September to 17th September 2008

THURSDAY 11TH SEPTEMBER - Funereal inspiration

A relaxing afternoon today as I'll be tuning in to the airing of the Radio 4 afternoon play. 'Worktown' is inspired by photographs of Bolton and Blackpool, taken by Humphrey Spender in the late 1930s for the 'everyday anthropology' organisation 'Massobs'. It follows a funeral procession through the cobbled backstreets of the towns, and intermittently dips into slices of life on its way. Poetry, dialogue, monologue and song are combined to create a picture of the richness of local life at the time. The play will be broadcast at 14.15, but should be available on the BBC's listen again service for a week after. You can also listen whilst watching a slide show of some of the photographs here.

FRIDAY 12TH SEPTEMBER - Watching yachting, seeing cycling and perusing ping pong

If, like me, you took a break from quite so many cultural excursions recently to settle down in front of the Olympics, then you might be interested to know about the two day conference happening this weekend at SOAS. 'Documenting the Beijing Olympics' will look at the ways in which the games were recorded in both audio and visual mediums. It is being co-run by an anthropologist, Dr Lola Martinez, and many of the sessions (led by a combination of film-makers and academics) are relevant to anthropology, which often considers the significance of visual representations. Each part of the conference is related to a different element of the Games, from the torch relay to anticipating London 2012, and will concentrate on how the Olympics become remembered by observers thorugh the media they absorb. Entrance to the conference is FREE, and it runs over the full 2 days, but you should register with Jane Savoy before attending on or 020 7898 4892.


Today I will be at an exhibition by the Moroccan artist, Hassan Hajjaj, that has just started at the Leighton House Museum in West London. Dakka Marrakesh, or 'Marrakesh Beat' is a series of images that combine traditional forms of dress with highly commercialised contemporary brands. The idea is to question stereotypical perspectives people might have of Arabic women - so for example one image features a woman wearing lots of make-up whilst sporting a veil covered in the Louis Vuitton logo. It's interesting to the anthropologist for the way such juxtapositions highlight what is sometimes called an 'Orientalist' point of view - namely only seeing non-western people in a cliched way. There is a talk by the artist today at 15.00 and the exhibition in general is open between 11.00 and 17.30 except Tuesdays - admission costs £3 or £1 for students.

SUNDAY 14TH SEPTEMBER - Anthropology VJs

Last week, the Guardian ranked its' top 50 arts videos on youtube, and amongst the eclectic collection was some footage shot by the famous American author Zora Neale Hurston, who started out as an anthropology student. The footage in the clip is from one her trips in the 1920s, and is a great example of the way the internet has brought many anthropological resources and records to a wider audience. The film is overlaid with Hurston singing a then-popular song called 'Uncle Bud', so it is not just a record of the society she was filming but also of her own background. It is one of many anthropologically-related films about, which also include this pretty unusual remix of various ethnographic films here! Sing along now - 'Uncle Bud's got gals long and tall/ And they rock their hips like a cannonball, Uncle Bud.'

MONDAY 15TH SEPTEMBER - Bringing Ethiopia to Oxford

The Pitt-Rivers Museum, that anthropological treasure trove, is currently closed for refurbishment so tonight is a rare opportunity to head along there. They are holding one of the regular 'Friend's lectures (in the new extension to the building), which is being given by Hassan Arero, from the East Africa section at the British Museum. He will be talking about 'Ethiopia at the British Museum' and the many objects on view from their collections, including religious artefacts and pieces traded along the merchant route that ran between the Mediterranean and the Far East. There are refreshments being served from 17.45pm, with the lecture at 18.15 - visitors who aren't 'friends of the museum' are welcome but are asked to make a £2 contribution towards costs.

TUESDAY 16TH SEPTEMBER - In search of homeland

On Monday I want to attend the start of a new film season at the Goethe-Institut in London. Heimat? What Heimat? means "Homeland? What homeland?, and the series of films being shown are all interrogations of what exactly the concept of homeland should, or can, mean. Their 'anti-heimat' perspective - a reaction to stereotypical 1950s' films from the Austro-Germanic region - is interesting for its subversive take on that area. Films to be shown include Heart of Glass, directed by Werner Herzog, who has frequently borrowed from anthropology in his filming techniques and collaborations. The season last until 2nd October, and admission for each screening is only £3 - look on the website for more details of the schedule.


This evening I'm heading along to The Fleapit in Columbia Road, East London for the first of two nights of film screenings from the current crop of students on the MA in Visual Anthropology at Goldsmiths University. Subjects range from a portrait of a blind Irish goat farmer, to an investigation into the regeneration of Morecombe pier and a memoir of a former leper colony off the coast of Crete. Entry to the whole evening is FREE and each film lasts no longer than 25 minutes so no need to worry about turning up late - the documentaries start showing from 18.00. You can also view the work of previous years' students online here.