Auto Anthropology Of Contemporary Arts.
The project can be described as an ethnographic research of contemporary art practices in postsoviet countries (particularly, in Kazakhstan). The main case study here would be an imaginary art-institution called Crёlex centr, that was created by two artists from Almaty five years ago as a conceptual art-project. It was a thought experiment: an attempt to imagine and sketch out an art-center that would not be representing any particular identity, but “us” – the virtual translocal queer societies, which perhaps have not emerged yet. It was also an artwork in the genre of ‘positive institutional critique’ – establishing of a phantom, in a certain sense non-existent art-space in response to the situation of local institutional vacuum. And first of all, it was an undercover signboard for Maria Vilkovisky and Ruthie Jenrbekova, the two employees of this art center. Since then Crёlex centr has functioned as a model of a real institution, producing events and documentation, establishing connections, participating in exhibitions and conferences, applying for open calls and publishing texts. All these activities provide material for ethnography of everyday routine, rituals, presumptions and beliefs that characterize contemporary art world.
Thus Crёlex centr can be taken as a specimen for an auto anthropology. The idea of using ethnography for contemporary institutions studies is not new. One of the exemplary studies in the field called Anthropology Of The Moderns would be “The Laboratory Life” (B. Latour, S. Wolgar, 1978) – an ethnographic investigation of inner workings of a scientific laboratory. We’d like to apply the same principles to the artistic laboratory. If ethnography has been proved applicable for studying the “tribe of scientists”, it might also be applicable for “tribe of artists”.
Ruth Jenrbekova was born in Almaty city, Kazakhstan. Since 1997 she has been involved in
various cultural initiatives. Being a precarious employee of an imaginary art-institution, she tries
to combine several roles and positions, working in a duo with her partner artist Maria Vilkovisky.