german spanish french portuguese english japanese chinese


Digital Cultures Lab


workshop 11

Ethnographic Library:

Performance and Anthropology, Revisited


Artists in Trance

New Methodologies in the work with the other
in Latin American art

Experimental workshop for art and anthropology
presented by the Department of Anthropology at Rice University
and the Transart Foundation in Houston, spring 1977. With the participation of Rice University's Department of Art and Art History, the Rice Media Center, and the School of Architecture.

"Artists in Trance" is a multimedia course offered to the public by the Department of Anthropology at Rice University and the Transart Foundation in Houston (spring 1997). Led by researchers Abdel Hernández and Surpik Angelini, the course presents 20 Latin American artists whose works are charged with vital social energy. The 20 selected creators are involved in specific situations: the Cuban crisis, tensions in the Mexican-American border, violence and poverty in Columbia, Venezuela, and Uruguay. However, beyond their geographical distances, the artists are linked by the interest in their innovative work and their anthropological methodologies.

The chosen artists, some of whom make their own presentations during the course, seek to voice regional differences using all techniques, tools and genres. They thus avoid the monologue in the work of art. While proposing new ways to deal with alterity, the challenge postmodernism's institutional inclusiveness and its lack of radicality in dealing with difference.

The interest raised by these artists' inventive methodologies is based on the fact that they use social energy as primary material. They intuitively act as mediators of voices and resonances of their specific cultures. In some cases they seek self-transcendence, working as ventriloquists or applying shamanic techniques and intrinsic local knowledge. In other cases, they share their authorship, creating experiences in several voices or executing te wishes and needs of their communities.

In their exposition, the presenters of "Artists in Trance" reflect and develop the creators'own methodologies, intentionally mixing experimental ethnographic reports, fables, jargons, and proverbs rooted in their culture. Their anthropological approach transcends the ideal of the artist as an ethnographer as well as the idealization of the artist by the anthropologist.

Throughout the course, an important methodological debate pertinent to artists and ethnographers on the issue of the representation of the OTHER will be sustained, avoiding the external mappings used by current curatorships and art criticism. Beyond present tendencies towards multiculturalism, "Artists in Trance" argus the need to understand cultural specificities from within, regarding them independently from ethnocentric, museum and market oriented agendas.

5 Parts.
"The crisis of the ideal of the artist-ethnographer"

Lecture 1:
A generalized poesis: configuration of the plot and expanded ethnography.
Jan.15/ 7pm a nonchalant manner, as "quien no quiere las cosas," using aphorisms and stories of an artist "in fieldwork": well formulated hypotheses are presented to serve as guidelines for the course "Artists in Trance" to suggest without using persuasive fiction the meaning of this new art form emerging from the margins of the great instituytional circuits.

Lecture 2
José Bedia and Eugenio Dittborn: visual poetry with the effect of ethnography
Jan 22/ 7 pm
WHERE...the forms of visual ethnography crystalize among artists during the period of the ideal of the noble savage: the work of José Bedia and Eugenio Dittborn is presentd as the last stronghold of visual ethnographic poetry in Latin America.

"Trance and contagious transmission: symbiotic artists"
Lecture 3
Multivocal trance vis a vis romantic ecstasy
Jan 29/ 7 pm
WHERE..."things get serious": we present first, artists who benefit from the impulse of the OTHER, embodying him or her as in a trance, and then, we deal with artists who seek to contagiously and subversively transmit, from within, the instrumentality of the material world through operations of the magical world. Introduction of the sociocultural context, the experiences of rapport and the contributions of t work of Elson Padilla, Ana Mendieta, Luis Gómez and Rodriguez Brey.


"Remain remainders of the soul," Luis Gómez Armenteros.
Rice Media Center gallery. Jan 30-Feb.12. Opening Jan 30/ 5 pm

Lecture 4
"From Lam to Elso Padilla: To concoct the individual and the collective"
Feb 5/ 7 pm
WHERE... the thunderstorm breaks: as one surprisingly reaches Elso Padilla's energetic synthesis through the tangent of Lam's morphological syncretism. We present a close-up view of the methodology with which Elso fuses active non-formal elements in the present Catholic, Mesoamerican and Afrocuban imaginary.

"Shamans and Comedians"
Lecture 5
Febr 19/ 7 pm
WHERE... the lecturer makes a pause narrating his experiencs with the unconscious drive and humor in Latin American culture: the methodologies of artists such as Lázaro Saavedra and Ruben Torres Llorca are exposed. Lázaro Saavedra's case is developed: his works and notebooks of unpublishable notes chraged with philosophical reflections adopting the voice of street characters who re0define art and theory. An effort is made to guide the audience to the place from which Latin American artists and intellectuals are directing their gaze.

EXHIBITION: "Mental massage" Installation. Lázaro Saavedra.
Rice Media Center gallery. February 20-March 9. Opening Febr 20/ 5 pm

Lecture 6
"Substracting the public, or the public as an invoked inclusive OTHER.

Febr 26/ 7 pm
WHERE...through an invocation we explore artists who do not include the OTHER, through their methodologies mediumnistically anticipate the expereince of the receptor. We present the work of Luis Camnitzer, Doris Salcedo, José Antonio Hernández Diez.

"A local Double against the Text"


"Arguing with Betara Desa." Installation. Ernsto Leal and Juan José Olavarría.
Farish Gallery. School of Architecture. March 10-22. Opening March 10/ 5 pm

Lecture 7
"The periphery as a disquieting figure"
March 12/ 7 pm
WHERE...after a destabilizing shift as the threshold of art and ethnography: we speak of artists who bae their life in barrios of extreme poverty, or comment private experiences, pushing the subversive content of the link between alterity, the unconscious and cultural representation. We present the work of parish minister Juan Carlos Rodríguez and his experiencs of artistic ethnography and dispersed community authorship in Caracas' poverty-stricken barrios. We will speak of Surpik Angelini's search into the "unconscious" and explore experiences with the Double developed by artist Ernesto Leal.


"Psyche's ethographic report." Installation. Surpik Angelini.
Rice Media Center gallery. March 13-22. Opening March 13/ 5pm


"Installed ethnography of Barrio la Bandera." Installation-performance. Juan Carlos Rodríguez.
Rice Media Center gallery. March 13-22. Opening March 13/ 6 pm

"The artist as a ventriloquist and a medium"
Lecture 8
Alejandro López, Nilo Castillo: "Polyphony and multitext beyond postmodern parody"
March 19/ 7 pm
WHERE... provoking both critical and melancholic laughter in the audience: artists using multivocality are presented as they disguise themselves as popular characters, gang members, cartoon heroes, immigrants and sorcerers. Through "elegant terms and good manners" the audience is persuaded that these artists, on the one hand, point out the lack of radicality in postmodern parody and deconstruction, while on the other hand, they seek to transcend through their own specific expressions, modernist art's monologue and post-avant-garde art's institutional inclusivism.


"The Text: Indestructible Unity." Performance. Alejandro López.
Hamman Hall. March 24/ 8 pm

"The Great Theory." Performance. Alejandro López.
Hamman Hall. March 25/ 8 pm


"Una, mi mula...siete, machete." Performance. Nilo Castillo.
Hamman Hall. March 25/ 9 pm

Lecture 9
"The popular market against writing and the monument"March 26/ 7 pm
WHERE... imbued by the dazzling effects of fieldwork: two artists, Abdel Hernández and Fernando Calzadilla narrate their experiences in Venezuelan popular markets investigated for the creation of their installation work "The market from here." This lecture relates realistic accounts with dialogues among an ethnographer, a schizophrenic, an informant and artist.


"The market from here"

Installation-performance. Abdel Hernández and Fernando Calzadilla.
Courtyard behind Department of Anthropology/Sculpture Department. March 27-April 16. Opening March 27/ 6 pm



April 16/ 5 pm
Presentation of research publication: "Reports from the Threshold of Art and Antrhopology" by Abdel Hernández, Surpik Angelini, George Marcus, Stephen Tyler, and other ethnographers.
Anthropology Department.


Workshop Libraries

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12


coordinated by Johannes Birringer (London)


Join the new Dance Tech Maillist

Digital Cultures is supported by private-public partnerships and donations.