Rene Magritte‘s piece, which translates to, “This is not a pipe.” No, in fact, it is a picture of a pipe. It’s not the actual thing. Magritte’s piece (which was actually done decades before Warhol) illustrates what I believe Warhol was trying to convey with nearly all of his art. Warhol was trying to tell us that we were not looking at whatever was the subject of his pieces, but rather, a representation of them. It’s almost as if Warhol was channeling Magritte through his art, though until I made that realization, I had never heard of a connection between the two artists before.
In Anthropology, this artwork normally indexes Michel Foucault’s work in the following excerpt from Aesthetics, Method, and Epistemology (1994: 200-202).
6. Non-affirmative Painting.*
Separation between linguistic signs and plastic elements; equivalence of resemblance and affirmation. These two principles constituted the tension in classical painting, because the second reintroduced discourse (affirmation exists only where there is speech) into an art from which the linguistic element was rigorously excluded. Hence the fact that classical painting spoke – and spoke constantly – while constituting itself entirely outside language; hence the fact that it rested silently in a discursive space; hence the fact that it provided, beneath itself, a kind of common ground where it could restore the bonds of signs and the image. Magritte knits verbal signs and plastic elements together, but without referring them to a prior isotopism. He skirts the base of affirmative discourse on which resemblance calmly reposes, and he brings pure similitudes and nonaffirmative verbal statements into play within the instability of a disoriented volume and an unmapped space. A process whose formulation is in some sense given by Ceci n’est pas une pipe.
- To employ a calligram where are found, simultaneously present and visible, image, text, resemblance, affirmation and their common ground.
- Then suddenly to open up, so that the calligram immediately decomposes and disappears, leaving as a trace only its own absence.
- To allow discourse to collapse of its own weight and to acquire the visible shape of letters. Letters which, insofar as they are drawn, enter into an uncertain, indefinite relation, confused with the drawing itself – but minus any area to serve as a common ground.
- To allow similitudes, on the other to multiply of themselves, to be born from their own vapour and to rise endlessly into an ether where they refer to nothing more than themselves.
- To verify clearly, at the end of the operation, that the precipitate has changed colour, that it has gone from black to white, that the “This is a pipe” silently hidden in the mimetic representation has become the “This is not a pipe” of circulating similitudes.
The Postmodern movement in anthropology started in the 1960s. The main issue Postmodernist anthropologist have with ethnographies are that they are open to bias and subjectivity. They argue that ethnographies are not actually science and shouldn’t be. Postmodernists want to emphasize the opinions of those people being studied and believe that anthropologists should take part in cultural activities to gain a sense of how those cultures operate. Also Postmodernists want ethnographies to be available to everyone, specifically those being studied.
Some consider Postmodernism the end of Science Others just want to have fun with Postmodernism
“anthropological writings are themselves interpretations, and second and third ones to boot” -Clifford Geertz
Three anthropologists thoughts about it follow:
Vincent Crapanzano – Hermes Dilemma: The Masking of Subversion in Ethnographic Description
Vincent Crapanzano argues that there are problems with being an ethnographer and writing ethnographies. Problem number one is that the moment you start a study as an ethnographer you have already created boundaries you cannot pass in your ethnography simply because you ARE an outsider. Problem number two is that the ethnographer must make what is foreign to him/her known and yet still keep it foreign. Problem number three the ethnographer must be able to not lie and at times it not divulge the whole truth.
Renato Rosaldo – Grief and a Headhunter
Renato Rosaldo and his wife Michelle spent 30 months studying the Ilongots in Manila, Philippines, whose people numbered 3,500 and covered an area of 90 miles in the northeast uplands. While studying these people he came across a ritual known as headhunting (a ritual in which following the loss of a close family member, a man becomes enraged and cannot find relief from said rage until he has fulfilled the ritual of cutting off a head and discarding it, as to discard his rage), for which he could not really grasp the concept as to why one would partake in such a ritual. When he asked the Ilongots they replied in a brief statement,
“rage born in grief, impels him to kill his fellow human beings.”
It wasn’t until the author himself was faced with the loss of a close loved one that he able to begin understanding the feelings of bereavement that the Ilongots were faced with. Only then was he able to truly understand their ritual of headhunting.
The focus of ethnographies tend to be purely on ritual and completely miss context and texture because too often the observer is trying to be completely unbiased and in return they miss the significance of the cultural event.
“Even when knowledgeable, sensitive, fluent in the language, and able to move easily in an alien culture, good ethnographers still have their limits, and their analysis are incomplete.”
Rosaldo, only through his experience with bereave
ment, was able to adequately explain the headhunter’s ritual in an understandable manor.
“My use of personal experience serves as a vehicle for making the quality and intensity of the rage in Ilongot grief more readily accessible to readers than certain more detached models of composition.”
Roy D’Andrade – Moral Models in Anthropology
Moral Models speaks on the attacks on the anthropological standpoints through time. By discussing the differing views within the profession it seeks to find the appropriate way to approach the topic of ethnographies. The agenda be
“that anthropology be transformed from a discipline based upon an objective model of the world to a discipline based upon a moral model of the world” where “model” means “a set of cognitive elements used to understand and reason about something” and “Moral” refers to “primary purpose of this model, which is to identify what is good and what is bad and to allocate reward and punishment.”