Hal Foster: The Artist As Ethnographer?

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We will be discussing Hal Foster: The Artist as Ethnographer?

-What is an Ethnographer? The scientific description of peoples and cultures, with their customs, habits and mutual differences.
-Ethnography, in general terms can be described as, “simply diverse ways of thinking and writing about culture from the standpoint of participant observation”

- Hal Foster’s piece questions and critiques ethnographic practice within contemporary art,
Foster is partly guided by responding to his opening reference to Walter Benjamin’s “The Artist as Producer.”

- In his text, Foster discusses the development of art and theory since the 1960s, and the relation between prewar and postwar avant-gardes, criticizing and questioning the idea of artist as Ethnographer.
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- The incorporation of different cultures into art has a long history and artists have used ethnography as source of content for their work. Well-known examples dating back to early modernism, which led to appropriated forms from African and other, considered ‘exotic’ cultures to include in their art practice.

-Artists and anthropologists share a common ground in the concern for the "politics of representation", the relation between art and anthropology.

-Foster discusses ethnographic authority and artistic authorship and asks if contemporary fine art practice challenges anthropology’s claim as the main academic discipline representing other people’s cultures? Or do artists provide a valid alternative perspective?

-Over the years, art, could no longer be described simply in terms of physical space - studio, gallery, museum etc – it became expansive and branched out within a multitude of practices and institutions, other subjectivities and subjects and communities.

-Naturally and unintentionally, focus can drift from 'ethnographic self-fashioning' in which the artist is not questioned so much as the other is more ‘fashioned’ into an artistic
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