Beyond Aesthetics: Art and the Technologies of Enchantment

Beyond Aesthetics: Art and the Technologies of Enchantment

Beyond Aesthetics: Art and the Technologies of Enchantment

Beyond Aesthetics: Art and the Technologies of Enchantment

Synopsis

The anthropology of art is currently at a crossroads. Although well versed in the meaning of art in small-scale tribal societies, anthropologists are still wrestling with the question of how to interpret art in a complex, post-colonial environment. Alfred Gell recently confronted this problem in his posthumous book Art and Agency. The central thesis of his study was that art objects could be seen, not as bearers of meaning or aesthetic value, but as forms mediating social action. At a stroke, Gell provocatively dismissed many longstanding but tired questions of definition and issues of aesthetic value. His book proposed a novel perspective on the roles of art in political practice and made fresh links between analyses of style, tradition and society.Offering a new overview of the anthropology of art, this book begins where Gell left off. Presenting wide-ranging critiques of the limits of aesthetic interpretation, the workings of objects in practice, the relations between meaning and efficacy and the politics of postcolonial art, its distinguished contributors both elaborate on and dissent from the controversies of Gell's important text. Subjects covered include music and the internet as well as ethnographic traditions and contemporary indigenous art. Geographically its case studies range from India to Oceania to North America and Europe.

Excerpt

Is it useful to see art objects, not as bearers of meaning or aesthetic value, but as forms mediating social action? This book addresses a range of issues in the anthropology of art in relation to this thesis, in relation to a theory proposing that former emphases upon significance and aesthetics in the anthropology of art have proved unproductive, and that art should instead be seen as a special kind of technology that captivates and ensnares others in the intentionalities of its producers. This is one of the arguments of Alfred Gell's posthumously published Art and Agency: an Anthropological Theory (1998), which this collection uses as a departure point, to re-assess questions of agency and meaning in art.

Most of the chapters of this book are based on drafts presented at a conference which took place in Canberra in August 1998. This event was intended in part as a commemoration of the work of Alfred Gell, who had died in January 1997, but the participants were nevertheless committed to debating Alfred's work with the kind of impartial vigour that characterized his own seminar engagements and writings. Among a number of people who made stimulating contributions and helped make the conference a success, but who are not represented in this volume, we must thank Eric Hirsch, Howard Morphy, and especially Simeran Gell.

The conference was supported by the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthro– pological Research and the British Academy, and hosted by the Centre for Cross– Cultural Research at the Australian National University. We are very grateful to those institutions for making the event possible, and must particularly thank Hilary Ericksen and Ian Bryson, research assistants at the Centre for Cross-Cultural Research; Hilary put a great deal of work into the organization of the conference and supported the initial phases of editorial work; Ian Bryson, who provided further editorial assistance and co-ordination, has helped us bring the project to fruition. Thanks also to Kathryn Earle at Berg for her patience and support.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.