Journal of Ethnology 1/2014 is devoted to visual anthropology. Martin Soukup explains developmental transformations in visual anthropology and its definition (Drawing and Painting in Anthropology), Tomáš Petráň deals with the relation between the profession of an ethnologist and that of a film-maker (Ethnographic Film: an intersection between scientific and artistic viewing of the world). Barbora Půtová focuses on the expressions of visualisation in African Benin (Visual Presentation of the Benin Empire and its King: From British Colonial Rule up to Present), Jaroslava Panáková writes about decorative carpet as a visual symbol of Soviet aesthetics (A Thing, a Photo and Socialism: A Carpet Story).
Transforming Tradition column publishes an article From Caricature to Race Face – a contribution on contemporary visual comic (by Eva Šipöczová) and a essay about the ride of the kings in Skoronice in the last year (by Josef Holcman). The interview with ethnochoreologist Daniela Stavělová reminds of her anniversary (*1954), Social Chronicle reminds of the anniversaries of ethnologist Naďa Valášková (*1944) and Leoš Šatava (*1954) and the decease of Věra Haluzová (1924–2013), an organizer of different folklore activities. Other regular columns submit reports from the branch, especially overviews of conferences, exhibitions, and reviews of new books.
Drawing and Painting in Anthropology
The subject of the study is to analyze the use of native drawings as a gnoseological tool in cultural anthropology taking into account the developmental transformations in visual anthropology. This was established as an independent anthropologic sub-discipline aimed at the study of culture especially by means of film and photograph. Native drawing is still rather undervalued in visual anthropology even though it disposes of considerable potential for the research of culture by visual means. This is documented by results of the research conducted by Mead, Bateson, Fortes, Alland and many others whom the contribution pays a special attention. In his study, the author will proceed not only from the analysis of implemented researches focused on native drawings, but he also will build on his own empiric experience with using the native drawings in the research of the Nungon ethnic group of Papua New Guinea. The aim of the study is to introduce the status of using the native drawings in anthropologic research, possibilities of using, analyzing, and interpreting the collected data and wider connections with visual anthropology.
Ethnographic Film: an intersection of scientific and artistic viewing of the world
This study is focused on the area of ethnographic film and video in the process of interdisciplinary interaction between ethnographers and filmmakers. In past creation of image required considerable effort, based on technical mastering of visual techniques and on individual dispositions of the filmmaker. This has changed dramatically by means of industrialization of production as well as distribution of consumer images. The amount of images is constantly growing, they are omnipresent and instant. In the first decade of new millennium, the role of film within the framework of anthropological research is being redefined. New roles of visual anthropology are occurring together with the development of experimental methods in social sciences and with the newly recognized role of Art in the research itself. The requirement of professionalism of audiovisual record, which burdened the ethnographic film with established visual processes and conventions, is disappearing under the influence of massive transmission of personal and private images. Democratization of the creative process and almost unlimited possibilities of distribution lay new questions about the definition of the genre.
Visual Representations of the Benin Empire and its King: From British Colonial Rule up to Present
The study presents the image of the Benin Empire and its king through photographs and artworks that contribute to the construction of social reality and have the ability to capture cultural changes visually. Visual representations of the Benin Empire presented in this study encompass particularly the period from British colonial dominance to these days. Depicting the Benin king has been a frequent motif used in traditional as well as contemporary art (bronze sculptures, relief plaques or oil paintings). The study also analyses photographs taken by colonizers, court photographs and anthropologists during their research at the palace courtyard. Special attention is paid to the continuity in Benin bronze artefact creation and the development of contemporary Nigerian art – works and artists who continue the traditional depiction of the Benin king enriching it with their specific view of the world. The analysis also focuses on photographs seen as symbolic systems capturing the colonial and post-colonial situation – historic events relating to the British invasion, European colonial dominance, power relations, asymmetry, injustice and everyday life. The study presents photographs not only as mere period documents, artefacts and historic source that serve to the purpose of scientific analysis and interpretation, but also the purpose of inspiring the contemporary artistic work.
A Thing, a Photo, and Socialism. A Carpet Story.
The way of our viewing fulfils every political, economic, and social concept with certain audiovisual materials, rules, and canons of imagination as well as with visual style and aesthetics. Socialism offers plentiful examples how the convention of “good manners” penetrated into photographic viewing. One of them is the series of domestic group or individual portrays in front of a “Persian” carpet hanging on the wall. This carpet stands for the all-including identity of Soviet citizen, socialistic wealth, cosy socialistic dwelling, and constitutes a frequent element of domestic Soviet photographs. While the foreground changed according to one leader replacing the other one and alongside the politicians, also the giant agitating mosaics or tapestries intended for exterior or interior changed, the carpet remained unchanged. Even though this convention is suppressed by another one in Moscow or Petersburg, and “sovok” – the culture of socialistic households and everyday life - is understood as a negative one, this convention is still surviving in Siberia. The question is why the people still insist on being photographed in front of the carpet. This study introduces an in-depth analysis of the origin, development, and transformations of this specific visual practice. We will show how the socialistic Alltagswelt and the idea of a right Soviet citizen were interconnected with a peculiar way of (photographic) viewing and how this visionary project failed while the visual one is still living.