Creative Ethnography and Social Art
The purpose of creative ethnography’s conceptual framework is to describe artistic and social projects with the use of a specific method: the language of description is intended to transcend the language of art critique, cultural animation, or anthropology and social sciences. It is an experimental form of “thick description”, wherein knowledge and action, cultural cognition and artistic projects are connected to one another in different and more compact ways, with the use of new and frequently prototypic concepts. Generally speaking, these are quests for keywords which might help capture the experience of being and acting along frontiers of art, ethnography and daily life worlds.
Accordingly, I am describing social art projects primarily as an area of experimental collaboration, wherein a new and unpredictable sense of event is born. I believe something akin to a cultural cyclotron emerges therefrom, the ethnographic experience recognised as a point of departure; concurrently, a fully new cognitive field evolves alongside. These processes might well be referred to as the creation of artistic-and-demographic appliances which “produce extra reality”, conferring certain appearance upon it in order for a new look of social imagination to emerge. Often as not, these processes take on the nature of a pitfall referenced by Alfred Gell and, later, Roger Sansi: a draft scenario combining intentions and motivations of all project initiators and participants into a dramatic whole – wherein an artistic or animation action, once created, begins reinventing the perspective of each of the parties involved, generating something akin to an “inner” performance.
The concept further comprises a certain scope of freedom – an individual’s capacity for reaching a state of liminality and becoming “someone else” or “anyone” – for surpassing one’s life and cultural roles. The creative ethnography conceptual framework thus enables a more adequate rendering of artistic processes occurring in the extended field of art. As a methodology introduced to social practice, it co-creates a collaboration network which becomes an art-supporting environment, frequently outside art market structures. Consequently, creative ethnography enables the process of transcending ostensible contrasts formatting the modernist institution of art – an opposition between high art and the daily creativity of marginalised groups, practical value and aesthetic value of art, or between expert-level and radically democratic comprehension of artistic competencies.