In order to develop the relationships and experience necessary to garner trust and access to work processes, I spent a number of years working alongside the members of this creative community as a master electrician, lighting designer, producer, and curator.
As part of this participant-observation strategy, I worked in spaces where artists of multiple generations and various disciplines came to create, produce, socialize, and network.
I conducted both informal and formal interviews with individual community members and groups. I curated, moderated, and participated in public panel discussions on issues relevant to the community. I also worked with some community members to generate network and geographic maps to understand the social and physical landscapes from their perspectives.
Because these artists were public figures, there was also a wealth of archival materials and press that I could dig into from places like The New York Times, Village Voice, other serial publications, and books.
Since completing this project, three key insights have continued to impact my own work: ethical implications of ethnographic research, the strategic ways in which real estate developers can radically transform neighborhoods with the help of cultural innovators, and contemporary society’s changing relationship to “history” and the multi-generational memory that it represents.
The findings also critically influenced the ways in which I then went on to work closely with cultural organizations, to grow and develop resources for them, as well as cultivate partnerships and programming strategies.
Tendrils of Lost Time and The Self
An Aesthetic Anthropology of New York City’s
Table of Contents:
an impossible object
three failures at anthropology
1. Anomic Naming:
the violence of the name, the comfort of the misnomer (the fitness of the sign)
2. Lost Boxes:
landscape plays and right angled parallelepipeds
3. Bricolage Economies:
spit, tape and the mirage of sustainability
4. Anarchic Time:
banal events and the recollection of small details
three failures in aesthetic ethnography
5. Genealogic Webs:
human networks look like cancerous tumors
6. Disciplined Chaos:
ontological anarchy and zen beginners minds
7. Fleshular Presence:
material knowing and the dance of death
an original failure