In the question-answer period after the lecture, #TimIngold proposes art as a discipline of inquiry, rather than ethnography. This refers to his thinking On Human Correspondence.
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[75m26s question] I am curious to know what art, or how art, informs what you are doing here. We are standing on the art school. I have a bit of a worry that all of us just go on and interpret or over interpret what you just said.
[73m46s Tim Ingold] Okay, yes. I have been working on the interface between anthropology and art and all of that has been driven by a concern to treat art as a discipline of inquiry on a par with anthropology.
[74m05] That both concern with inquiring into the conditions and possibilities of human life in an environment, in a world, I think, and they can learn from one another on that level
[75m19s] In the history of of my own discipline of anthropology, unfortunately, an ethnographic approach has been predominant in which art is treated as the productions of people that we can then study and analyze.
[75m34s] So instead of thinking about anthropology AND art we’ve had we’ve had a massive anthropology OF art.
[74:39] Now, anthropology comes along says, just as well, you know here’s a kinship system, we can analyze that. Here’s the city of Richmond, we can analyze that. Oh here’s some art, let’s analyze it.
[74m49s] And that’s intensely boring. I mean it gets us it gets us nowhere.
[74m54] So I think that where we can we can come together is to think of of art as as a form of inquiry. And again it comes to the same thing I said in in answer to your question here, that our job is not to is not actually to interpret the art — to sort of set ourselves up on a pedestal as having some special expertise to explain to everybody else what it means.
[75m29s] That’s ridiculous, I think, and politically somewhat abhorrent.
[75m33s]But what our job is I think is — and I’ve used the word — is to correspond with it.
[75m37s] I’ve been developing this idea of correspondence, not in a sense of matching one thing to another, but in sense of answering to, co-responding in one, as in a conversation.
[75m47s] They’ve got two people are having a conversation and each is responding to the other. Or in a string quartet you got the violin and the cello and whatever and and and they’re all answering to one another. And that processes is carrying on.
[75m58s] So that it seems to me that that that art is, to my mind, a certain way of corresponding with the world, of answering to it. And we in turn answer to the art.
[75m11s] And I would like to think of anthropology my own discipline joining art in that way. And,. but to do that, we have to stop thinking of art as objects to be interpreted, and stop thinking of ourselves as master interpreters.
[76m30s] And, in other words, stop pretending to be artcritics. We can we can do without them I think. I don’t really see what they’re contributing.
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Ingold sees beyond science as an objective means of inquiry, seeing opportunities for transmitting wisdom based on more inclusive communications.
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[92m34s] For people who are engaged in research in one way or another, and then thinking about sharing their ideas in quite linear forms like papers — do you have — so varied and and and and mixing and about these gradients and and like things to do with like behaviors that happen in local social systems. Do you have any thoughts on — how is — what are some of the better ways to share ideas, and share what you what you find, in ways which are, yeah, less linear, I suppose.
[93m20s]it’s a big problem and, I think there’s something very seriously wrong with academic publishing at the moment, in that it’s become desiccated, really, and also driven — particularly in the sciences.
[93m26s] I mean there are these big publishers, Elsivier and so on, just making millions of pounds of profit on the back of all this stuff.
[93m41s] But the degree to which it’s appalling, the degree to which, are the writing of research reports has become standardized to a particular model, the extent to which, our own voices — the voices of the authors of these papers — have been eradicated
[94m08s] And I think, in the name of the objective dissemination of research findings.
[94m15s] And I think that this disconnect, between you, as a person who’s doing research, and what do you produce in the form of research output is very very damaging.
[94m282] And I think one of the reasons why we need to bring the arts in, is to try and introduce some sort of correction to that.
[94m38s] And somehow we need to get it across that, an author speaking personally on the basis of their considered experience is not somehow an inferior form of knowledge, to one that rules that out.
[95m00s] So, what I think what has happened, is that knowledge has become commodified within the the overall scope of of a global knowledge economy, and it’s the commodification of knowledge that has been created this this kind of situation.
[95m19s] And it and and you know young scholars are forced into it by the refs.
[95m24s] By all this kind of thing, when they supposed to publish — write and publish in certain kinds of ways — which I think are objectionable. That if we could just …
[95m34s] It can’t be right that there are two kinds of literature, that there’s one that’s sort of research literature and the other that’s called poetry.
[95m43s] You know and they’re not supposed to touch one another. And that can’t be right. And it must be the possible to find ways of communicating what we know, in ways that actually are infused with some sense of engagement of feeling with what we’re talking about.
[96m04s] And in that sense to create a more inclusive — actually more democratic — conversation. How we change that?
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Ingold, Tim. 2017. “On Human Correspondence.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 23 (1): 9–27. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9655.12541.
Ingold, Tim. 2019. “What on Earth Is the Ground?” Lecture presented at the Approaching Estate: Methodologies for practices of site and place, University Arts London, Central Saint Martins, April 9. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5ztVBhbO8E.