Friday, February 27, 2015

Hans-Ulrich Obrist: Where have you been all my life?

Recently I was stuck in a medical waiting room trying to amuse myself and picked up the 12/8/2014 issue of The New Yorker.  The New Yorker seemed a better choice than Parent Magazine, Modern Oncology, or whatever else medical staff had brought in to cheer us up as we waited.  

But what a gift this issue proved to be.  The profile, "The Art of Conversation: The Curator Who Talked His Way to the Top" by D.T. Max turned out to be one of those life-changing articles that only The New Yorker can offer. To my chagrin, I seem to be one of the last people n in the modern world to hear about Obrist. That will teach me to drop my subscription to the New Yorker! 

I had a long wait at the medical center, a blessing in disguise, because it allowed me to soak in every word about this amazing person who has revolutionized and popularized the notion of curation, not to mention providing important new models for understanding the the interview.  Both curation and the interview were of interest to me as a qualitative researcher.  Obrist offered new and exciting models for thinking about both. 

Naturally, I stole the issue from the waiting room and took it home with me.  I was sure I needed it more than anyone else who might have been there.  Then I spent most of the rest of the weekend reading about Obrist, listening to videos and interviews of him online, and ordering and reading his books from Amazon.  In fact, reading that Obrist had become a devote of Instagram, using this tool to capture glimpses of his many conversational encounters with artists, I returned to the Instagram account I had ignored for months (Artful_Inquiry) and began to follow Obrist through Instagram, I felt like a voyeur examining his photos of crumpled post-its written at various locations on his travels.

Pieces that struck me as I read:
-fascinated by the way he has thought about geography, space, architecture, placemaking as components of art AND curation
-his notion of the conversational interview with artists--a project he has been working on since teenhood--offers a new model of the interview for qualitative researchers.  (I intend to read more of these interviews...wondering if they would be good material to practice analysis on!)
-I like the fact he is publishing his interviews, but wish he would also release as audio items.
-I want to suggest that these materials should be carefully archived in a library where they can be accessed by the world.
-He helped me to understand how the artS, not simply art is what is evolving today. I realized that my eclectic approach to arts isn't that strange...why shouldn't poetry nourish felting or play with collage feed an understanding of architecture or gardening!
-I'm going to experiment with Instagram as a data collection tool--for creating various kinds of visual collections (just started with my meeting scribbles...we'll see where this goes)
-I am in the process of developing an applied anthropology project for my social anthropology final assignment...thinking of how Instagram data collection, conversation, and curation might be used in different parts.  (Oh dear--don't tell the Institutional Review Board!  I promise to get the paper work in before I do anything.)

Thank you to the New Yorker, D.T. Max, and, of course, Hans-Ulrich Obrist himself. 

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