Presenters and abstracts. 

Link to short version of the programme


Thursday 7 February


Wenzel Geissler – “The entomology of ethnology. Subtle hunting and the anthropology of the trace.”

Professor – Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Oslo (UiO,

Studying colonial entomology (as part of an historical anthropology-cum-archaeology of scientific research stations in Africa) reveals affinities between entomological and ethnographic (and historical) field research and resulting texts. Inspired by the re-collections in Ernst Jünger’s autobiographical insect taxonomy, I will reflect on the potential of naturalism for the anthropology of the human trace, and for the ephemeral and fragmented ethnographic encounter with difference - with not-self, not-present, or not-human other.

Can anthropology partake in the entomologist’s patient ‘Anschauung’: recognising diversity and coherence in the overlooked or formless, finding openings to infinity in smallest form, surprise in repetition and routine; and emulating her targeted passivity, waiting, allowing ‘matter to respond from the nameless’ (Jünger). And can ethnology present a natural history of its (segment of a) world, acutely conscious of its limitations – of the unpredictability, irregularity, partiality and ephemerality of any moment of actual seeing – an yet aware of larger forces, largest order, glimpsed though small openings in the surface of reality.

Some contingent, though not random, moments of adhesion from the historical ethnography of biological science in postcolonial Africa will, I hope, show the potential of an emphatically empiricist and materialist, as well as eclectic and anachronistic, approach, while at the same time pointing towards some problems and limitations. Here the conversation with Jünger in particular forces want to confront issues of arbitrariness, anesthetization and political effect.

Nadine Wanono – “Voices from the archives”

Senior researcher, IMAf-CNRS-EHESS-EPHE-IRD-AMU, Rédactrice en chef AnthroVision, Secrétaire générale Les Ecrans de la Liberté.


The Dogon mask has been a worldwide ethnographic landmark for many years as well as the main interest of ethnologists and museums. The population's daily life and the memories of colonial history kept away from the discourse.

These archives describe precisely the different military strategies employed in order to subdue the population to the colonial power. The precision of the description within the authoritative legacy is particularly offensive and outrageous. From these different sources I conceived a short installation with Dogon masks made from junk materials. These lines, words coming form the colonial period and the junk material are both considered leftovers. Through this experience I question the different ways a creative practice transmits contentious cultural heritage by establishing a vital dialogue with the population directly concerned and affected by these historical events.

Valentina Bonifacio –“Destiempo: dynamogram of Puerto Casado (Paraguay)”

Phd/Researcher and Lecturer in Visual Anthropology and Applied Anthropology, Department of Humanistic Studies at Ca 'Foscari University, Venice (Italy).

This paper is a reflection on my collaboration as an ethnographer with Paraguayan curator Lia Colombino and a group of Paraguayan artists in the making of an exhibition about the history of an ex-tannin factory in Paraguay. For about one hundred years, the factory has been described by the Paraguayan government, local historians and by the company itself as a successful example of the neo-colonial tale of linear progress and indefinite development. Developed as a counter-time, out-of-sync narrative to this neo-colonial apology of development, the exhibition “Destiempo” aims at narrating the historical legacy of the factory and its contested present. In particular, I will focus on the work of the artists Fredi Casco and on the process of co-creation of “Bicho ra’anga”, a piece he created in specific for the exhibition. “Bicho ra’anga” is based on the manipulation of a folder of documents that I rescued during my fieldwork in 2007 which belonged to the abandoned ex-factory archive. Infused with renewed life, the original documents

Christian Sørhaug, Kjartan Fønstelien and Serge von Arx – “Our Gruesome Cultural Heritage” Cultural heritage plays a central role in contemporary efforts at nation building.

Cristian Sørhaug - Associate Professor Østfold College, Department of Health and Welfare, 

Kjartan Fønstelien  - Assistant Professor Østfold College, Department of Scenography,

Serge von Arx – Professor Østfold College, Department of Scenography,

In our project, we explore established national narratives. Following Deleuze and Guattari who suggests that “The concern of the State is to conserve”, we analyze cultural heritage as strategies for states to conserve legitimacy. If this is the case, we need to ask critical questions concerning whose cultural heritage is conserved and how heritage practices create “otherness”? The gruesome fact is that some things become public and other not; some are included from society, others are not. Our project try to deconstruct three master narratives from the island Håøya in Oslofjord; the sinking of the German warship Blücher, Gestapo execution of communist resistance fighters and prostitutes forced to labor on a weapon factory during The great war. Using traces from the past, the students crate alternative monuments performing these stories in different ways. The paper present some ethnographic accounts of how the students cooperate and build monuments. Our analytical strategy is to approach cultural heritage monuments as heterogenic assemblages of humans and nonhumans taking on a temporary configuration in order to unravel alternative way of remembering.


keynote: Prof. Khadija von Zinnenburg-Caroll – “Cook's New Clothes and the Reparation of Fragile Times”

Professorial Fellow, Department of Art History, Curating and Visual Studies, University of Birmingham. Chair of Global Art History.

Contested Heritage often circles around the claim to restitution of cultural property. This keynote will explore the relationship between art practice and ethnography in the context of two contested repatriation claims. One is the return of Moctezuma's Crown from the Vienna Weltmuseum to Mexico. The second case is Cook Taonga going back from the UK to Aoterroa/New Zealand and the art project Cook's New Clothes which seeks to subvert the commemoration of the first voyage of discovery in the Pacific captained by Lieutenant James Cook.

The processes of ethnography and creative practise and the relationships between these provide a variety of strategies of dealing with contested heritage from the perspectives of contemporary art and anthropology. The relationship between contemporary makers and the contested authority of anthropology museums is studied through ethnography with contemporary communities who have stakes in their heritage. Experimental art and writing practises are employed to deal with these contested repatriations in ways that move them beyond the traditional tracings of academia. These include Nikolaus Gansterer and Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll's The Restitution of Complexity, which is based on a forthcoming book for Chicago University Press on repatriation.



Friday 8 February

Kris Rutten – “Exploring European identification and division through cultural heritage.”

Prof. Dr. Kris Rutten, Ghent University, Department of Educational Studies, Ghent University, Belgium.

The central ambition of the Horizon 2020 call "REFLECTIVE-2-2015: Emergence and Transmission of European Culture Heritage and Europeanization", was to explore the potential of (immaterial) cultural heritage in overcoming the current “EU crisis”. From this perspective, cultural heritage and the arts are seen in such calls as crucial resources for “the collective memories and sociability of groups”, to “promote diversity and intercultural understanding”, and to “promote intergenerational dialogue and social cohesion”. In this paper, we develop a critical analysis of this policy driven research agenda by problematizing the instrumentalization of cultural heritage for the creation of a common European identity. We focus on the European crisis as a crisis of democracy, that is, a crisis where Europe as a democratic ‘project’ has come under pressure and where Europe’s democratic future is therefore at stake. From this perspective, we ask in what ways and to what extent (immaterial) cultural heritage can contribute to organizing, promoting and fostering support for Europe’s democratic project, and how it can strengthen identification. Based on the assumption that art is an important resource for questions of cultural heritage-making, we will specifically focus on how the ethnographic turn in contemporary art can offer a framework for critically assessing and tracing the role that cultural heritage can play for Europe’s democratic future.

Eleana Yalouri – “Negotiating difficult relationships: Contemporary artists engaging with classical Greek heritage”

Department of Social Anthropology, Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences.

In recent decades a booming bibliography in archaeology and anthropology has been devoted to the discussion of the ‘difficult’ relationship between Greeks and their ancient heritage. The controversies and paradoxes arising from Greek classical antiquity as a simultaneously local, national, and global heritage, the '(crypto) colonial' gaze of the Western world over antiquity in constructing the idea of ‘ancient Greece’ along with the modern Greek past and present, the juxtaposition of the 'glorious' past with the Greek present, and the relationship between the classical past with other pasts of Greece, are all familiar issues that have been plaguing the Greek state ever since its establishment, connecting or dividing a society that has grown up with the legacy of ‘the golden’ classical antiquity.

While these issues have been extensively explored and continue to preoccupy archaeologists, anthropologists and scholars working in-between the two disciplines, contemporary art has also developed a particular interest in these issues in recent decades.

In my contribution I will discuss certain trends and interests which are beginning to emerge in the works of contemporary Greek artists as well as in collective art projects and exhibitions in Greece. These are going against a tradition which used to embrace, imitate and/or be inspired by dominant narratives about the ancient Greek past. They are beginning to problematize established versions of history, urging one to ask whether contemporary art can play a more active and dynamic role in the difficult relationship between the Greek present and the ancient Greek heritage. I will present examples of relevant artworks and I will conclude by comparing these trends and interests with some of the ways in which the international art institution documenta 14 ‘Learning from Athens’ engaged recently with classical Greek antiquity.




Michaela Schäuble & Anja Dreschke – “Tracing Tarantism - An ethnographic study of an Apulian ritual between art performance and cultural heritage”

Michaela Schäuble - professor of social anthropology, University of Bern (CH).

Anja Dreschke - Visual and media anthropologist, research fellow, University of Bern and fellow at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne.

In our presention we propose to portray the crossmedia project ›Tarantism Revisited‹ which builds on current research on the remnants and revival of popular religious practices and aims at exploring how tradition, heritage and cultural identity are presently created and mobilised through religious performances. Focusing on the ethnographic example of tarantism, the project traces the multiple facets of a phenomenon that has been endemic to Southern Italy for at least five hundred years yet currently experiences an unprecedented revival and growth in popularity. In the past decade, tarantism and pizzicato music have become a crucial element of local popular culture in Apulia which not only attracts ten thousands of tourists, but has also become part of the transnational world music scene, thus contributing to the construction of a new, neo-traditional local identity. In our project – in collaboration with local performers, musicians, and activists – we primarily focus on the performance aspects of tarantism, thus highlighting its role as politicised multimedia event along with its importance as cultural and economic resource in the region. Using innovative and collaborative media formats the project investigates the complex history and present mobilisation of tarantism as a tourist spectacle and politicised site of folklore, cultural heritage and female empowerment. The project encompasses three interlinked activities: the realisation of a 60-minute documentary film and complementary 360° videos, both of which formats will culminate in and contribute to an interactive multimedia website (comprising historic and contemporary photographs, explanatory texts, short video clips, sound pieces, interview excerpts and samples of tarantella music).


Bernard Müller – “What to do with the spoils of the colonial wars? The (“ethnographic”) object as ticking time bomb and the artist as artificer”

Researcher/lecturer EHESS-Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales (Paris), and researcher member of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on Social Issues (IRIS = UMR 8156 - CNRS-Inserm-EHESS-University Paris 13).

More and more, the ethnographic museums, museums of civilization or world museums involve artists preferably living, and coming from the regions of collection. Often presented as anecdotal, the task incumbent on artists is in fact crucial: it is a matter of instilling coevalness in institutions still structurally allochronic, like the methods of his discipline (ethnology). The artistic intervention is expected to unjam the gripped institutional tools inherited from the 19th century whose organizational and bureaucratic principles - however lapsed - are still effective. The artworks are then supposed to open a breach in the temporal safe that is the museum to let the contradictions of the world of today, with its infinite political abundance, and its fabulous social inventiveness. One of the stakes is none the less the renegotiation of a new modus vivendi, a political project definitively freed from colonial racialism and its contemporary avatars, in phase with increasingly multicultural societies in search of a new political frame of coexistence. Through artistic means, the "ethnographic" object is thus invited to move from the status of symbol of a past trauma to that of emblem of a new postcolonial order in preparation, and still with vague contours (notably because of the provincialization the Old Continent and the emergence of the Pacific as a new center of world capitalism). Who will be fooled by this bargain that no one will escape unscathed?

Examples of artistic interventions in various museums in Europe will be illustrated in the light (or shadow?) of current experiments in the ethnographic collections of Saxony, notably in "Prolog # 10" (http: / / and in my seminar-workshop "Museum on the Couch - reflexive and creative explorations in ethnographic collections" ( museum-on-the-couch) in collaboration with the Institut für Ethnologie zu Leipzig and IRIS, EHESS, Paris.


Alyssa Grossman – “A Catalogue of Useless Rocks”

Lecturer in Communication and Media, Department of Communication and Media, University of Liverpool.

This paper discusses a collaborative work-in-progress between an anthropologist (myself) and a visual artist (Selena Kimball), regarding a collection of rocks stored at the Museum of World Culture in Gothenburg, Sweden.

The rocks were gathered in the early 1900s by Erland Nordenskiöld, an ethnologist researching indigenous South American material culture and cultural history. While most of the artifacts that he sent back to Sweden (pottery, baskets, stone tools, carvings) comprise a predictable array of items common to colonial-era collections, they also include an assortment of ordinary rocks, stones with no obvious anthropological function or value. They are catalogued according to their geographical origin and date of acquisition, but possess little additional contextualizing information. Why are they kept here, as opposed to a museum of natural history or geology? What did Nordenskiöld see in them, and why have no other researchers paid them any attention?

Kimball and I are interested in these overlooked fragments from the museum’s holdings. Embracing hands-on, improvisational, exploratory routes into the ethnographic archive, we are investigating the physical and material qualities of Nordenskiöld’s rocks, their textual and photographic documentations, and their potential associations with individual dreams, cultural memories, and de-colonial narratives. Our project draws inspiration from practices of ‘curature’ (Hamilton and Skotnes 2014) within museum settings, using creative methods of assemblage, bricolage, and defamiliarization to critique traditional scientific mechanisms of collection, classification, and display.


Janine Prins –“The (dis)comfort of things”             

Guest lecturer/coordinator in Visual Anthropology/Visual Methods at Leiden University Faculty of Social Sciences,

As a visual anthropologist I started pointing the camera at well-travelled objects in my relatives’ private homes. Remnants of a colonial heritage, these objects span three generations in the former Dutch East Indies, present-day Indonesia. The stuff seemed to provide a nostalgic comfort zone that nowadays needs contestation.

First the recordings and objects received through inheritances resulted in the installation Legacy of Silence, drawing on Latour's Making Things Public. Authentic objects from my Eurasian heritage got partnered with multiple screens in a pop-up artist studio, inviting visitors into an immersive participatory space with an open-ended private (post)colonial microhistory.

The work invites visitors to consider multiple, contradictory interpretations, which provoke thought about contemporary social hierarchies, and also open up an unpredictable range of affects and meanings that evade existing categorisation, like that of victim versus perpetrator or coloniser versus colonised.

However, despite allowing heterogeneous viewpoints that activate ongoing reflection, the points of view remained highly Eurocentric. The project, which operates between art and ethnography, currently seeks views collected from Indonesian, Japanese, Chinese and American sources in order to trace even more layers belonging to the colonial stuff and stories in our surroundings. What meanings can be traced, to whom, when?

Cathy Greenhalgh – “The Warp and Weft of Contested Cotton Stories: film as a bridge between museums in the UK, India and Poland.”

Independent Scholar and Doctoral Researcher, Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London.

Cottonopolis (2019 forthcoming), is my sensory ethnographic feature documentary film essay. It traces cotton textile manufacture in contemporary India, intercut with memories of people from “Manchesters”, mega-textile cities; Manchester; Ahmedabad, Gujarat, known as “the Manchester of the East”, and Lodz, known as the “Manchester of Poland”. It fuses elements of the global history of empire and slavery, cities copying the Manchester factory system, political and social decline, sustainability and regeneration, machine and hand-made aesthetics. This artistic intervention and collaborative work involves ethical questions evoking my own Lancashire cotton ancestors lives. Filmmaking provides a way to reveal contestable histories displayed in these museum contexts and include diverse audiences through storytelling and juxtaposition. My empirical evidence shows different agencies and unravels the gaps between UK, Indian and Polish museums which “tell the story of cotton” (Sabarmati (Gandhi) Ashram, Calico Museum, Rajnagar Mill, Ahmedabad; Textiles Museum, Manufaktura, Lodz; MOSI, Manchester). Drawing on ‘migratory aesthetics’ (Bal, 2006) and alternative art/anthropology methodology (eg: Schneider, Ed, 2017), I show how heritage can be performed (re-enactors, texts, objects, settings) in ways which can either promulgate misrepresentation or create more inclusive connected engagement.

Rubén Guzmán – “The Noise of Time: navigating the periphery of anthropological experimental essay film”

Rubén Guzmán - Professor/ researcher, Laboratorio Texto, Imagen y Sociedad (LabTIS) and Universidad Nacional de Río Negro (UNRN),

Argentina Born in the blurry intersection between ethnography and experimental essay film, The Noise of Time proposes a creative and innovative dialog between anthropology, distorted perspectives, essay film, literature, philosophy, art, memory and time. It expands the concept of the so-called anthropological documentaries, for it shamelessly incorporates subjective digressions, multiple disciplines and plastic and formal explorations. Based on the life and research studies by Swedish-Argentinean anthropologist Eric Boman (1867-1924), who was the first one to thoroughly study the ethnic groups of the Andean plateau, or Puna region, The Noise of Time constitutes a reflection upon civilization and time, as seen from the perspective of Boman's revisiting ghost. The presentation will focus on the creative processes and on the exciting difficulties and possibilities in navigating the troubled waters between all disciplines involved. The talk will include topics such as research, concept, (experimental) treatment, (unconventional) scriptwriting and structure, and it will be illustrated with examples. The Noise of Time is a biannual research project (currently in progress) coproduced by the Universidad Nacional de Río Negro (UNRN) and the Laboratorio Texto, Imagen y Sociedad (LabTIS) - UNRN, Argentina.

Keywords ethnography, anthropology, experimental, essay, film, art

Petra Rethmann – “Chto delat’s memorial histor, or, monuments for the left?”

Professor, Director/Graduate Advisor of IGHC, Department of Anthropology, McMaster University.

In September 2017, the St. Petersburg-Moscow art collective chto delat’ (what needs to be done), built up an artistic monument in honor of the hundredth anniversary of the Russian Revolution on Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square. Created in conjunction with Toronto’s contemporary art festival Nuit Blanche, and Creative Time, a New York-based public art non-profit organization. Chto delat’s monument consisted of eight shipping crates housing various artistic renderings of historical revolutions, ranging from 1917 Russia to 1956 Cuba. What’s more, from November 2017 until April 2018, in Mexico City’s Museo Universitario Arte Contemporaneo the collective exhibited a “monumental timeline,” featuring a history of left revolutions, ranging from the 1871 Paris Commune to the 1994 Zapatista Uprising. In building on participation in workshops and interviews with the collective, as well as aesthetic examinations of their art, here I am interested in examining how chto delat’ imagination of left history, including the kind of history the collective argues the left needs.


In the last few years, concerns with how the left should remember its own history have emerged in anthropological, political, and postcolonial scholarship (Wilder; Scott). Greatly animated by the work of Walter Benjamin, Stuart Hall, and Reinhart Koselleck, scholars ask about conceptualizations of memory as future-oriented and unclosed. In building on this work, in this talk I ask if chto delat’ conceptualization constitutes a meaningful practice for the left, and – if so – under what conditions.

Tracy Mackenna – “The Artist and the Collector: storytelling and official narratives”

 Professor, Chair of Contemporary Art Practice, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, University of Dundee.

The Museum of Loss and Renewal is an artist-led platform. Its curators, Tracy Mackenna & Edwin Janssen, develop in collaboration with others art projects that address issues of societal concern such as well-being, end of life and sustainability. Applying a durational curatorial approach to the habitation and activation of a depopulated, familial mountain village in central Italy, the artists are engaged with two ‘unofficial’ WWII museums. The collections consist of artefacts gathered by their custodians, local individuals, from the surrounding mountainous area. The Winter Line battle terrain was documented by photographer Robert Capa, and the film San Pietro (1945) was made by John Huston while serving in the U.S. Army Signal Corps. Local, global, universal and subjective histories are being explored and presented through artistic research methods.


John Manton – “The Leprosy Centre, Uzuakoli. The failure of paper and persistence of sound.”     

Assistant professor, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine,

This intervention considers and contextualises the remains of the recording apparatus at the Leprosy Centre and Research Unit, Uzuakoli, Nigeria, a location of deep trauma and contentious cultural heritage. It reconstructs an imagined biography of a failed archive from the fragments encountered on a visit to the Centre in 2006, and the stories of its demise recounted in 2015, counterpointed and interwoven with an elegy for the musical production of the Centre's most eminent patient and resident, the composer and activist Ikoli Harcourt Whyte. This imagined biography/elegy, at once scholarly and performative, foregrounds the relations between Nigerian and international public health planning and chemotherapeutic research, entwined colonial and Nigerian cultural production and recording apparatus, and Nigerian bodies and communities, indexed in the production, organisation, and deployment of records of lives lived with leprosy, according to the archival techniques developed over forty years of information gathering. Finally, it considers the significance of the ruination of these records, interpreting their scattering, heaping, and (literal) consumption as elaborating a critical aesthetics of the African state, its memory, and its trajectories               

Sorayut Aiemueayt – “The Vernacular aesthetics and the pictorial digital ethnography in Malaysian Tamil community.”

Doctoral candidate in Research Area Visual and Media Anthropology, Free University of Berlin, and a lecturer in Visual Anthropology at the Department of Media, art, and design, Chiang Mai University, Thailand.

This paper point attention to the pictorial practices in a small studio engaged Malaysian Tamil community, the working class who has the historical background as the forced immigrant from the British colonial era in Malay peninsula. This studio offers mainly the photographic services and edits the portrait image in the digital collage by changing the environment to the religious screen, the attractive places, and the colour abstract.

The discussions in this paper are the illusion of colonial traces and the artistic embodiment. Malaysian Tamil is the colonial heritage as the cultural stereotype of docility who work hard and tedious in the industry. The work of art in this small studio is a pictorial digital ethnography for re-narrating Malaysian Tamils identity to the lively, creative person and shows the process of redefining identity. Moreover, the aesthetic in their work is a critical dialogue with the professional artist. The contrast, unevenness, and the reduced resolution embodied the vernacular aesthetics and made the local producer to be the traveller in the digital no man's land. This process is not an only challenge to masterpieces of artwork but has become the language and present the original of reproduction that democratising art and politic coherence.

Jean Delsaux and Pascale Weber – “Travel and creation within and against globalization.”

Pascale Weber is an artist and researcher in Paris 1 Sorbonne University (Senior associate Professor)

Jean Delsaux is an artist and researcher, University of Clermont Auvergne UCA,

We have payed two visits to Norwegian Sapmi during which we met researchers as well as Reindeer hurdlers or salmon fishermen. With them, we approached the questions raised by the destruction of a culture and its reappropriation by the descendants.

Understanding what is at stake in the claim of cultural reappropriation, of a refoundation and resurgence of identity, of a rewriting of History, this work allows different generations to meet and highlight the link that binds the population to the territory it occupies.

Our approach of artists focused on issues of identity, encounters with other cultures, the Sami, but also the Innu, Inuit, and various migrations that could put them in contact.

Everywhere we have met the painful traces that colonialism, economic and ideological, have left behind in the regions concerned, be it Europe or North America.

We exchanged, not by the speech, but by the dance, the image, the performance.

This allowed us to perform outside of our landmarks and to question ourselves about our own cultural representations, to nourish our work as researchers in Art, Anthropology and Aesthetics.

We propose to show how artists, arriving in an unknown territory, strive to meet, understand, exchange, build a mode of relationship outside of globalized colonialism.

Mischa Twitchin – “Time Crystals”

Dr Mischa Twitchin, Theatre and Performance Dept., Goldsmiths, University of London.,

Taking up Deleuze’s concept of “crystals of time”, Maurizio Lazzarato proposes an understanding of video as a double of the temporal relations between perceiver and perceived, with each becoming a difference not simply from the other but from itself. In a sense, this perhaps offers a paradigm of and for the ethnographic as a reflexive practice. Attentive to the technical sensorium and its historical inventions of experience, Lazzarato declares: “the technologies of vision force us to denaturalise our mode of apprehension,” where “machines to crystalise time are at the heart of the processes of the production of subjectivity, because time… is the power to affect and to be affected.” In exploring how essay-film (distinct from documentary) might provide examples of this for a decolonising understanding of museum ethnography today, my presentation will address both historical materials and film work of my own. I wish to consider here how an anthropology of images in metropolitan museums “exposes” the anthropology that these museums themselves present in their own image; or, in Preziosi’s suggestion, “what it is we imagine we see when we see museums imagining us.”


Elizabeth Cory-Pearce – “Ahead of the de-colonising intervention: Maori colonial portraiture as a co-produced object”

Dr Elizabeth Cory-Pearce, Researcher & Consultant, Tavistock Institute of Human Relations, London,

Based on ethnography among Maori families in Rotorua (Aotearoa-New Zealand) who have a deep history of employment in (and deployment of) cultural heritage industries, my paper illustrates the importance of combining fieldwork with comparative museum research so as to identify images, texts, objects and performances produced by these same families, and now located in public and private collections worldwide. By combining the two, my research uncovers and foregrounds the at times deliberate roles Maori (and in particular Maori women) took in fashioning their own imagery in this part of the world, from the late 19th century.

As colonial photography proliferated within the tourism industries of Rotorua, Maori responses were typically both appropriative (they consumed the imagery for their own purposes) and expansive (they became patrons of preferred photographers and so influenced their work). Ahead of late 20th century artists’ decolonising interventions – i.e. before, but understood in the Oceanic temporal sense of a past that lies ahead of us, as we walk backwards into the future facing our ancestral past as template and guide – attention to the detail of personal collections and recollections reveals that where families see forbears and the presence of ancestral authorship in colonial portraiture, an oppositional or counter-narrative approach based on the notion of a ‘decolonising re-appropriation’ is for these families not necessary.

Such images have, since their creation, and continuing today, always been experienced as co- or multiply-produced. They depict layered and multiple subjectivities, and can be read as at once cosmopolitan and modern; and, in the finer grain of their labelling, posture, and apparel, and in the mode in which they are displayed, and continually re-performed, as offering (and continuing to offer) Maori a contemporary counterpart to ritual practices now ceased (such as the preservation and exhumation of deceased forebears bodies).

Annemarie Bücher – “REALLABS: collaborative agency and bottom up development of cultural landscapes”

Dr. Annemarie Bucher, Zurich University of the Arts, Lecturer Department of Art & Media, Co-Head MAS Arts & Society,


People identify with the places they call home and they have a desire to see these thrive. Worldwide large-scale development projects are transforming everyday landscapes of living environments radically and rapidly. Such decreed planning often blindsides local communities and puts them into a reactive position incapable of taking part and implementing their inherent knowledge about their places.

This paper discusses how artistic tactics and collaborative research merges with community based regional  landscape development. It focusses on the specific approach of Jatiwangi art factory (JaF), a community-orientied group of artists in Jatisura, West Java. JaF aims to develop discourses around local rural life through arts and cultural activities, such as festivals, exhibitions, artist residencies, public discussions and other tactics.

To actively influence ongoing environmental and social transformation processes JaF and FOA-FLUX have initiated research workshops and an interregional transdisciplinary network of (art) groups working in social and environmental scapes (REALLABS UNIVERSITY).  

The objectives of these activities are to establish a collaborative research setting, to critically evaluate the changing cultural landscape, including landforms, traditions and present ways of living, and to implement this knowledge for activating the search for alternative developement.

Keywords: Art as agent, cultural landscapes, place identity, regional development, participatory planning, gotong royong, Reallabs University, Jatiwangi art Factory (JaF), FOA-FLUX


Dominique Lämmli – “Working With Art In Social Transformation”

Dominique Lämmli is an artist, philosopher, and educator. Professor in Drawing & Painting, Zurich University of the Arts. Directs the NPO research FOA-FLUX (

This paper discusses current art practice in Hong Kong and Indonesia integrating heritage (traditional knowledge, know-how, crafts, manufacturing facilities, products, materials, buildings, museums, and exhibitions) into every-day practices. In doing so, this paper takes a practice-led, philosophical, and anthropological approach. The descriptions of the discussed phenomena build upon a ten year-long research on how functions of art have glocally and globally been effected by artists pursuing holistic perspectives on the world. They are fusing locally anchored art notions and contemporary art strategies, addressing socio-political issues, building upon inherited practices, goods, and achievements. Thereby, heritage is understood as a source for cultural development and for bringing about new perspectives of sustainable living and related forms of behaviour, work processes, and production modes. Therefore, the objective of such art practices is not only to hand down cultural heritage, but also to productively use it for opening up alternative activity spaces for experimental and reality changing endeavours.

Keywords:Protecting and transforming heritage, serendipity and community based activities, glocal art notions, regional development, agents for change, sustainable living, artists working reality, artistic process and production.

Sara Dornhof – “Artistic Engagements with Transcultural Memories and Heritage in Morocco”

Research fellow, Institute for Advanced Study, Freie Universität Berlin/ Kulturwissenschaftliches Kolleg Konstanz, University of Konstanz

The notion of cultural heritage is increasingly contested in relation to authoritative agency in defining and delimiting normative ideas of cultural authenticity, origins, and collective memory. In this process, contemporary art practices play a significant part in challenging official memory politics and dominant historical narratives. By engaging with fragmented archives, material traces, and oral history accounts, artists do not only question essentialist understandings of culture and heritage, but also propose contemporary, fictional and speculative approaches to entangled histories in changing postcolonial constellations.

Based on empirical research in Morocco, my contribution will discuss art projects that inquire into marginalized or repressed memories in urban and rural contexts, thereby creating alternative ideas of heritage, counter-notions of archives, and experimental forms of transmission and circulation of historical knowledge. I will discuss different art projects that focus in particular on transcultural dimensions of heritage and their potential significance for contemporary revisions of the past. I will argue that these kinds of artistic practices provide new impulses for anthropological research on contemporary art at intersections with memory studies.


Jully Acuña Suárez & Marcelo Marques Miranda: - “Decolonizing the Representation of an Indigenous People in a Museum through Participatory Art and Co-curation”

Jully Acuña Suárez, artist and PhD researcher in the Department of Archaeological Heritage and Society at Leiden University,

Marcelo Marques Miranda, PhD Researcher - Heritage of Indigenous Peoples, Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University,

For too long indigenous peoples have been represented and addressed from a colonial perspective. Their art is primitive and exotic craftsmanship. In museums, they are exhibited as trophies, decontextualized and desacralized. Archaeology detached them from history and claimed their property. The Museum of Sibundoy, Colombia, is a paradigmatic representative of this colonial discourse. Our research uses artistic and ethnographic practices, co-produced with the Camëntsá people, to reveal its “unofficial” and contested heritage. We also collaborate with the community to critically address the local government-managed museum, the display of human remains, and to co-curate a new exhibition based on its own interpretation of material culture, archaeological and sacred sites, and the concept of territory. The inclusion of the latter is essential in our research, as in the Camëntsá worldview this goes beyond geometrically and materially defined borders, which in turn is reflected in the way art is perceived. This process will represent the community in its contemporary context and challenge colonial precepts in art and mainstream archaeological and museum practices and sparkle a missing and much needed intercultural dialogue.

Justin Armstrong – “Remainders As Reminders: ruins as cultural heritage in a network society”

Lecturer in Writing and Anthropology, Wellesley College,

A museum of see-through houses emerges out of North Dakota's grasslands. In Newfoundland, a forgotten island off the coast of another island holds its evaporating memories close while the world swirls in the distance. Iceland's remote Hornstrandir peninsula watches its old herring factories and abandoned farms fade into an unremembered past. This paper examines the cultural relevance and historical significance of ruins as a readymade museum. Drawing on almost two decades of ethnographic fieldwork and artistic practice in the isolated and abandoned rural places of North America and the North Atlantic, I aim to reimagine these emptied places as dynamic, generative museums and locations of artistic, touristic and academic engagement. How might we begin to understand these sites as markers of a complex and storied cultural history? How might we shift these ruins into viable and valuable points of inquiry surrounding the role of globalization as both a benefit and detriment to cultural heritage? Far from so-called ruin porn, this project offers the potential for rethinking the social and cultural importance of ruins in situ. This work aims to provide a real-world tool-kit for developing an everyday ethnography of ruination.


Alanna Cant – “Negotiating the sacred-historic in Mexican Catholic heritage.”

Dr. Alanna Cant, School of Anthropology and Conservation, University of Kent;

Based on ethnographic research about the restoration of a 16th century Dominican monastery in the village of Santa Cruz Mixtepec, this paper considers the conceptual and material tensions that exist between church-as-heritage and church-as-temple in Mexico. All Catholic buildings constructed in Mexico before 1992 are legally ‘national patrimony,’ federal state properties which are protected from unauthorized changes. At the same time, at least 83% of the Mexican population considers itself Catholic, and so Church buildings continue to be spaces of lived religion in which people spiritually and ritually engage with their physical elements, at times in ways that may put their historical integrity at risk. As such, the tensions created by the heritagisation of religious spaces are salient and politically significant in contemporary Mexico.

In Santa Cruz, the primary ‘stakeholders’ in the restoration project are the local civil authority; the local Catholic community; the parish priest and the institutional Church; and the restoration professionals who are overseen by the federal government. While everyone agrees that the building and its contents should be considered ‘heritage,’ they hold very different opinions about what constitutes value, knowledge and appropriate action within that space. The paper argues that rather than coming into outright conflict, these differences produce a relational social and material field in which the sacred and historic values of the buildings and objects are negotiated over time as the restoration work progresses. The paper concludes that this emergent field is characterized by aesthetics and temporalities that are particular to religious heritage spaces.

Mark R. Westmoreland, Nii Obodai, and Dennis Akuoku-Frimpong: - “Broken Ground: Sites of Storing Stories in Ghana”

Mark Westmoreland, Associate Professor, Leiden School of Visual Ethnography,       

Nii Obodai, Director NUKU Studio,

Dennis Akukoku-Frimpong, documentary photographer, member of APJD - a project of the World Press Photo Foundation and Everyday Africa and NUKU Studio,

In recent years, complex changes in African landscapes have primarily been discussed in terms of ‘land grab’. Processes of extraction, such as large scale mining, are unequivocally associated with forms of dispossession. And yet, markets are complex socio-political fabrications, in which commodification of labour and land depends on simplified conceptualizations of human energy and socionatures (Richardson & Weskalnys 2014). “Before it is (marketable) ‘land’ it is ground/earth/soil/forest/pasture/ancestral territory/place of spirits” (Murray Li 2012). From the perspective of local communities, landscapes are thus an assemblage of elements (Murray Li 2014), many of which are "priceless". For people connected to the land, landscapes are sites of storing stories, but rather than privileging the way people speak about the land, multimodal and artistic approaches provide a more dynamic understanding. Accordingly, our research collaboration between anthropologists, artists, and members of local communities allowed us to bring to the fore new ways of listening to these stored stories and visualising their features. Articulating speech and visions, arts and research, and breaking barriers between researched and researchers, provides new, ground-breaking conversations about the complex and power-loaded dynamics playing out on landscapes of extraction in Ghana.


Melanie Sindelar – “The nation takes place in the future: artistic responses to cultural heritage in the Arab Gulf”

Junior Fellow Abroad & Guest Researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle/Saale.

In this paper, I investigate how contested cultural heritage narratives in the Arab Gulf are negotiated within its art scene. In countries such as the UAE, the heritage, as well as arts sector, are state-funded to a large extent, and the state tries to provide funding possibilities to incentivize artists to produce work favorably dealing with the state’s desired national and cultural heritage narratives. During several months of fieldwork from 2015-2017 in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah, I documented the aesthetic and political responses of visual artists practicing in the UAE. I focused not only on Emirati artists but on ‘resident artists’ also, artists that have grown up in the UAE and possess a residency permit but cannot become, due to stringent immigration laws, citizens of the country. Given the Arab Gulf countries longstanding intercultural and economic exchange with Indian Ocean countries and its diaspora communities, current national narratives focusing exclusively on Bedouin heritage seem particularly misplaced in the eyes of these artists. The contrast between the multi-cultural present of the Arab Gulf and its fabricated national memory reminds of the postcolonial theorist Bhabha’s conundrum between national pasts and presents, on which I build in this paper. This conundrum, however, gets complicated by the Arab Gulf states’ expressed futuristic ambition, which has become part of nation-building agendas, and thereby, clash with imaginations of the past (and present). How do artists express forms of belonging, imaginations of temporality, and their relation to the state in their work? These questions will be answered in this paper.


Chiara de Cesari – “Creative statecraft: Art and cultural practices as forms of the political imagination”

Dr Chiara De Cesari, Senior Lecturer, Amsterdam School for Regional, Transnational and European Studies & Amsterdam School for Heritage and Memory Studies, University of Amsterdam.

This paper looks at contemporary Palestinian art and museum practices as forms of creative, experimental institutionalism, as instituting practices intervening in a stateless/colonial political context. In particular, through a selection of diverse cases, I reflect on the ways in which artists and cultural producers participate in forging the nation-state by performing its institutions, and by mocking its operations. How do artists set up state-like cultural institutions in a context where official ones are absent and what kind of predicaments do these instituting practices go through? I present different projects to create Palestinian national museums that tend to blur the boundaries between reality and representation. I also discuss the recent Palestinian art biennial created by a group of Palestinian non-governmental organisations. I argue that Palestinian artists and cultural producers prefigure and call into being institutions that do not yet (fully) exist. These experiments with Palestinian museums and the biennial constitute a kind of artistic practice that does not just represent or imitate the social world: these artistic practices purport to produce new social arrangements – in particular, a set of new ‘state’ cultural institutions under conditions of statelessness, or better of multisited, dispersed-and-asymmetric statehood which is the case in Palestine today. By elaborating on ongoing research in the West Bank and my notion of anticipatory representation (De Cesari 2012), I further discuss how we can see such practices as enactments of a specific political imagination fraught with tensions and contradictions under colonial conditions

Tone Cecilie Simensen Karlgård – «Congo Gaze - People, Encounters and Artifacts. Radical trust - an unrealistic ideal or conceivable practice?”

Museum lecturer – Museum of Cultural History , University of Oslo  


A relationship between interested persons from the Congolese diaspora in Norway and employees in the museum of Cultural History has developed since 2007. Surprising and mind blowing incidents occurred in the process of cooperating for preparing an exhibition of objects from Congo in the Ethnographic collection in 2016. The project and exhibition titled Congo Gaze – People, Encounters and Artifacts formed a part of Things method, a larger project developed with the aim of opening up the museums and inviting interested audiences to participate in open and democratic processes, inspired by Bruno Latours: Making Things Public (2005). Exploring what certain incidents might mean to people, depending on knowledge about and emotional relationships to the objects, and have a closer look at the explanations and responses exchanged between participants, are sources for the discussion in this paper


  1. Marion Hamm. TRACES: Reports from the field.
  2. Elisabeth Schober. Session 1:
  3. Arnd Schneider. Keynote
  4. Klaus Schöneberger. Session 2: klaus.schoenberger@aau.a
  5. Suzana Milevska. Session 3
  6. Anna Szöke. Session 4:
  7. Alenka Pirman. Session 5:
  8. Gro Ween. Session 6:

Link to short version of the programme


Tags: TRACES, conference, Anthropology, Art, History
Published Dec. 12, 2018 8:25 PM - Last modified Feb. 3, 2019 10:46 PM