Presented by The Contemporary Austin
The Sorcerer’s Burden will consist of eleven artists: Ed Atkins, Nuotama Bodomo, Theo Eshetu, Cameron Jamie, Kapwani Kiwanga, Marie Lorenz, Nathan Mabry, Ruben Ochoa, Dario Robleto, Shimabuku, Julia Wachtel
The intersection of art and anthropology can be traced to the long-standing human desire to collect, classify, and display across cultures and time. In Western societies, the systematic accumulation and exhibition of objects considered to be culturally valuable dates back to the Renaissance-era cabinet of curiosities, or Wunderkammer, the precursor by several centuries to the modern art museum. Meant to inspire and amaze, these cabinets began in private, domestic spaces but over time expanded to entire rooms in the public sphere, eventually becoming what we know today as natural history, anthropology, and ethnographic museums. It wasn’t until the late seventeenth century that the first art museums appeared, taking their cue from these private curio collections turned public, where art collections of the royal, wealthy, and ruling elite made their way into public spaces for exhibition. In many ways, art museums evolved in opposition to natural history museums, the relationship between the two echoing undercurrents of the longstanding discussion between “high” and “low” art. In tandem, anthropological endeavors aspired to remain a comfortable distance from notions of fine art, averse to ethnographic methods becoming aestheticized and the inherent colonialist impulses present in both fields.
At the same time, anthropology and art as fields of study—themselves widely divergent across geographies and cultures—tend to have more in common than not: among them, an intellectual foundation based on curiosity about culture, an impulse to collect, and a reflection of the human condition. More recently, the twentieth century has witnessed Western modern and contemporary art re-engaging with anthropology. From the exoticism of early twentieth-century Primitivism, to the appropriated rituals of Surrealism, to Land Art’s archaeological excavation, and later to the ethnographic turn in exhibition-making beginning in the 1980s; the two fields continue to make uneasy yet fertile bedfellows. The resurgence of artists and curators turning to anthropological methodologies and concerns is both fascinating and problematic, indicative of broader sociopolitical undercurrents. It is this intersection, the complicated relationship between art and anthropology as seen through the lens of contemporary artists, that forms the subject of the forthcoming exhibition The Sorcerer’s Burden, titled after an ethnographic book of the same name by the American cultural anthropologist Paul Stoller. Representing a wide range of media, and including new commissions, site-specific works, and loans, the content will not focus on artists presenting straightforward ethnographic observations, but rather those artists who appropriate, manipulate, and transform elements found in anthropological methodologies and practices to create contemporary works that are alternately subversive, humorous, satirical, dark, playful, and enchanting. The premise teases out challenging issues related to race, colonialism, identity, religion, and politics, as well as potential for insight and fresh perspective in the unexpected intersections.
Jones Center on Congress Avenue and Laguna Gloria
Opens: Sept. 14, 2019
Closes: Jan. 19, 2020
To make special arrangements for your course, contact:
Date and Time
The Contemporary Austin (Jones Center) 700 Congress Avenue Austin Texas 78701