Doing Home Works: Extended Exhibitions, Ethnographic Tools, and the Role of the Researcher

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Since Hal Foster launched “the ethnographic turn of contemporary art” in the mid-1990s, the exchange between contemporary art and ethnography has continued to expand. Much of the debate considers artistic incorporations of ethnography, but little has been discussed about the ethnographic practices of art researchers. The latter’s relevance derives from the current changes in the art world. Art objects and exhibition formats take new shapes and circulate internationally, creating situations of translocality in contemporary art. This inevitably raises a crucial ethnographic question: how can one engage thoroughly with artworks and exhibitions from different cultural contexts without losing the complexity of the local discourses inherent in them? This article answers that question drawing on three ethnographic tools: first, the multi-sited ethnographic approach (George Marcus); second, the pairing of aesthetic analysis of artworks and ethnographic fieldwork (Georgina Born); and third, the use of generative ethnographic stories as a writing tool (Helen Verran). The latter two, especially, are then employed in analysing the Beirut-based extended exhibition, Home Works: A Forum on Cultural Practices. The analysis shows that adding ethnographic tools to the aesthetic analysis of international exhibitions allows for the complexity of local discourses, enhances attentive art writing, and urges engaged art research.
TidsskriftCritical Arts
Udgave nummer6
Sider (fra-til)753-767
Antal sider15
StatusUdgivet - dec. 2013
Udgivet eksterntJa