Central Saint Martins student Eva Cookney on Becoming The Other, an exhibition exploring ethnography/anthropology within artistic practice that she participated in at Rivington Place this May.
In his text, ‘Artist as Ethnographer?’, Hal Foster discusses a turn to ‘quasi-anthropological’ concerns within art, meaning an art practice that has culture, people or communities as the subject.This text was our starting point in the lead up to putting together the exhibition ‘Becoming the Other’. The project was a collaboration between Central Saint Martins and Iniva, led by artist and lecturer Erika Tan and Director of Education at Iniva, Teresa Cisneros. After reading this chapter from Hal Foster’s essay, we spent the first few weeks researching different examples of ethnographic art practice using the Stuart Hall library at Iniva. We started to think about some of the formats of the work we were looking at and how some artists played with the assumed authenticity in works presented as factual or biographical.
When we came together with our ideas for the exhibition, we had many different formats such as film; installation; sculpture; performance and painting but we were all interested in a similar theme. We came up with the title ‘Becoming the Other’ because each of us was making a piece of work that looked at the idea of representation. Some of the work was about something or someone imaginary in a believable format, such as Moea Creugnet’s film ‘From An Island’ which was a half documentary-style, half-poetic film about an exotic island or Victoria Rick and Hanqing Miao’s Facebook page for ‘Mary-Ann Smith’ which visitors were invited to play on; posting photos and statuses, adding friends and sending private messages. Other work looked at the our personal identities and cultures such as Cheryl Khol’s film ‘Notes from my Mind’ which she described as an “anthropological self-reflective study” of herself where she looked at what it meant to investigate herself as the subject of her own anthropological study.
When the audience came into the exhibition space, they were invited to move around the room, interacting with and investigating everything; trying to fit into Sara Graça’s strangely shaped clothes and taking selfies in a mirror; listen to a poem by Susana Uvida, read excerpts from the script of ‘An interview with the artists’, a performance by Eva Cookney where all eleven of the artists where represented under one persona by Eva in an interview about the exhibition; and then get comfortable on Minami Takahashi’s handmade, stuffed pizza installation to contemplate paintings by Cheryl Kohl and Asuka Anastasia Ogawa, watch Moea Creugnet’s film and read ‘Authentic Translations’, a book put together by Rachel Wallace & Tania Olivares with transcriptions of each of the artists talking about themselves for two minutes without direction, with all cultural signifiers such as names and places blocked out.
You can find out more about the exhibition here.