African Art, Interviews, Narratives: Bodies of Knowledge at Work

African Art, Interviews, Narratives: Bodies of Knowledge at Work

African Art, Interviews, Narratives: Bodies of Knowledge at Work

African Art, Interviews, Narratives: Bodies of Knowledge at Work

Synopsis

Joanna Grabski and Carol Magee bring together a compelling collection that shows how interviews can be used to generate new meaning and how connecting with artists and their work can transform artistic production into innovative critical insights and knowledge. The contributors to this volume include artists, museum curators, art historians, and anthropologists, who address artistic production in a variety of locations and media to question previous uses of interview and provoke alternative understandings of art.

Excerpt

Carol Magee and Joanna Grabski

Who could deny that interviews occupy an exalted place in our research imagination? This is the place where one of the most ordinary of human activities— dialogue—becomes a research instrument, a tool to both extract and produce understandings, and an indispensable resource to be put toward our interpretive undertakings. For those of us writing about cultural production in Africa, interviews figure across the strata of our scholarly projects, from the research process to its formal presentation in publications and exhibitions. We use interviews to generate and acquire perspectives, gird our interpretations, authorize our claims, and expand the purview of objects and other creative expressions. Interviews are so fundamentally embedded in the scholarly projects of African art studies that the relationship between them appears implicit and even naturalized. It is time to unsettle this relationship, open it up, and examine its possibilities more explicitly.

To do so, we begin with the theorization that interviews do productive and constitutive work. in researching and writing about art and artists, we attribute to interviews many capacities to work toward making meaning. Read from several angles, interviews represent bodies of knowledge that generate other bodies of knowledge. Building from the most basic understanding of interviews as exchanges from which we glean information, we envisage them broadly, and in positing interviews as bodies of knowledge, we underscore the multiple forms an interview might take. These range from formal inquiries designed to elicit specific information, such as those proceeding from questionnaires, to the casual, meandering conversations that take place with one or many individuals in person, over the telephone, or via the internet. Even as we acknowledge that the format an interview takes distinctly shapes the body of knowledge from which we draw, we present neither lengthy interview excerpts nor the analysis of specific interviews. Rather we reflect on what we do with the interview once we have it—how we put it to work. Focusing on the work of interviews opens up this project’s terrain of . . .

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