Category Archives: Anthropology/Art

Melbourne Open Lab

In the Melbourne Open Lab we heard from three speakers and then split off into two groups to discuss the questions and provocations that FSGR had sent. The discussion was lively, with a great mix of artists, librarians, historians, arts managers and interested locals and it was clear from the way our audience launched into discussion that libraries are places that ignite imaginations.

OPEN LAB welcome

“Empires of the future will be empires of the mind.” – W Churchill

Here is a snapshot of some of the discussions and and  some attempts by the groups at answering the questions….

What kind of librarians and cultural managers will we be?

Facilitators, Match makers, Distillers, Quality managers, Trusted guides, Conduits for information, they will act as points of access.

How do the public talk to each other? 

Musically… perhaps there might be musical instruments in the space.

Through common objects… perhaps there might be a comment book, a shared book that is built with each visit to the library.

In shared spaces… with a common focus, storytimes, homework and community groups.

The books exist so that people can use them collectively…Perhaps philosophy groups might run in the library making use of the books available to discuss areas of common interest.


“In the future… when we blink we will go online” Michio Kaku

In  this new context of online reading, how can we attract new audiences and what will the relationship between the digital and virtual spaces be like?

Is Web 2.0 content knowledge in the sense that libraries are accustomed to? and are these social or cultural exchanges archiveable in the way in which libraries are used to? If what is dawning is an age of greater social democratisation, how do libraries help facilitate these changes and adapt? And is this idea of co-creation in libraries a way of keeping people in the space for longer in the same way people stay in galleries etc…Will drastic changes alienate current users of passive services?

Someone suggested that libraries might like to host a “data furnace”…

…in the end this group decided that libraries have an ongoing role in contextualising / brokering and mediating knowledge and information and in bringing all these formats together and presenting them in meaningful ways. Libraries  have a role in helping us to build stories out of all of these disparate sources.

The group was interested in the difference between the precision of the knowledge that is available vs the informal colloquial knowledge that libraries attract particularly in rural centers.

Unbound v Bound Realities

“A book is
bounded. It has a beginning and an ending and a discoverable way of knowing
 that you’ve read the whole thing, you finish a book. Websites, like space, can go on forever.” Theo Gray, the author of The Elements

Sketches 1,2,3,4 and 5 – September – Part 3

After all the preparation, filming, interviews, imaginings, conversations (in Spanish) we are in the last week and preparing for the showings on Thursday. In the last two and half weeks we have found experts in a range of topics and are ready to make a human library, we have invented and played a game on twitter (the rules need tweaking), we have begun work on a map that plots favorite texts against the city of penaranda, we have worked out what the centre for the future might be like, with open spaces, light and radical reinventions of our relationships to culture and now we have a plan and it looks a little something like this:

bits and pieces

How this will all fit together no one knows…. Its like fog, little molecules all strung together in a three dimensional curtain, pieces of material that move in and out of focus as the viewer scans it with their gaze.

Research as Practice? – September Part 2

Week two of our intense residency in Penaranda has just come to an end. Over this week we attempted to get to know the users of FGSR better. Through the casting we chose participants for 3 research groups- 2 made up of users of the centre, and 1 of non-users. While the methodology of this research was somewhat compromised- users met at the centre while we took non-users to a local cafe, the idea was less to find hard data and more to explore the ways the people of Penaranda thought and talked about some of the themes the project is concerned with.

We divided the workshops into 4 parts; community, collaboration, consumption, communication,  using an icebreaker game at the beginning of each section. Luckily, the casting section proved useful in that everyone who participated had an  opinion to share and it was quite hard to follow with everyone talking over each other! Again, thanks to our great translator for helping us to understand what the discussions were about.

This reasearch phase helped to illuminate a few things about how Penarandinos feel about emergent technologies. Pretty much everyone was online, using email and Facebook and Twenti to keep in touch. People had less experience in using digital technologies to explore their own creativity, making us realise further the value of the project and the desire of FGSR to engage with technologies, but to make sure they take their audiences along with them.

If we approach the discussions as another way of getting to know the people of Penaranda and the landscape in which we are working, then they were a success. The discusssions, the written and drawn material produced, and the diaries that the participants will be keeping will find their way into the final event. This research is an integral part of our practice, even if formalised by using a basic ‘focus group’ model.



Looking for dreamers – September – Part One

In September we returned again to the centre, ready for three busy weeks of research, work, Spanish and sunshine. The work had been carefully split into three sections, during the first week we would gather people and resources, the second week would consist of workshops and observations with users and non users of the centre and the last week we would try out interventions and test possible structures for the final events.

We are super aware of the need within this project to have the staff of the centre see practical results of the works and to see the effects of new kinds of creative practice. So with the centres help we invited the users of the centre to participate in various ways over the three weeks to give feedback and insight from a new set of perspectives.

We are looking for dreamers

In the first week we carried out a sort of “casting” process to find people willing to help us with the research and share stories about their online habits.  A flyer advertising the project was posted around the town (the flyer above was made by Olga Sánchez y Florencia Corrionero, staff of the Fundación Germán Sánchez Ruipérez). We met each person individually and we sat on a stage,  like hollywood directors, with lights and cameras while each person shared a one minute story about fog. It could have been something that they remembered, heard, saw in a film, read in a book or were told as a child. Fog memories are interesting as there is a metaphorical likeness between fog and memory (this is not the first time this has been observed) and it was a lovely to have these Spanish memories float across the stage into the darkness as we selected our researchers.

One of the purposes of this blog is to put markers along the way or to highlight points in the process that are problematic… the dead ends, detours or distractions. I’m sure its been said before but our limited knowledge of Spanish culture and language is a big one, especially with understanding the nuances of peoples reactions and responses to all these processes of engagement. In this week we were surprised by the formality of this “casting”  process, but in the end it worked really well and we noticed that the librarians and staff really know their audience as people didn’t seem put out by this  process. There are reams and reams to be written about cultural differences, and the relational difficulties that this might pose, but if there is anything we have learnt it is that a little goes a long way and with a lovely translator some of these problems can be overcome.

Anthropology of Performance

The relationship between art and anthropology is not at all new and has had a diverse range of implications for arts practices, including ethnographic film making, study of culture through performance, research as practice and all sorts of reverberations and after effects. We banana’s are interested in the way the two fields can support and formally effect each other without either form being dominant.

Its a slightly different approach to the ideas explored here in this 1987 text by victor turner… however it gives some context to the terrain. Antrophology of performance

The Cultural Centre for the Future!

And it all starts with some long conversations about art, fog and expertise.

Our first research trip to Penaranda took place at the end of June and was quite intense! We met with almost all of the staff of the centre,  (all those that were available and on our busy schedule) and we interviewed each of them with some questions that covered their working days, home life, usage of technology, artworks that they remember, foggy days and subjects of interest or expertise.

Above all it was lovely to meet everyone and through the interviews we learnt a lot about the town, the centre and the people that we will be collaborating with on this project.

a tour around the town

a tour around the town

It was very interesting to hear about peoples foggy memories, as part of the initial thinking about the project we have been talking a lot about the idea of Fog. We are thinking about it as a metaphor for connectivity, as a lower version of a cloud that exists between us and connects more closely to the space we are in together. Fog or “Neibla” will form a sort of structural map and metaphor for the project. It was very interesting to hear that in Spain, the Fog, has very specific cultural associations of death, sadness and loss. Some of the memories were lovely to hear but it is something to be aware to when structuring and making our project…. As we don’t want to make the audiences of the future sad!

An Introduction in June

At the end of June Banana Asylum returned to Penaranda de Bracamonte to begin phase one of our project. The week consisited of interviews with every staff member at the centre. Our motivation was to get to know each staff member better, not only in their roles as employees at FGSR, but as individuals. We were also interested in gauging interest and/ or barriers to the project, so we could understand obstacles that might present themselves along the way.

In spending a week in Penaranada we came to learn that, well, all streets lead to the centre. It really is a tiny town, something we are both unfamiliar with, adding to the intensity of the project. We located some beautful locations around town and became very excited about what me might be able to do with them!

By the end of the week we had consumed a huge amount of jamon y queso, began to understood the rhythm of Penaranda and identified some of the FGSR staffs main concerns. On the whole people were excited, but apprehensive about the project. There is a real sense of pride for all the staff that work there, something that makes doing this kind of project inspiring for us, but also understandable that they are concerned about what we will get them to do! Fog continues to be a theme as we asked each staff member a memory they have of fog. It is useful to use this as a guding principle and to realise how murky and threatening it is to most.

Public Space and Exchange

Here is a lovely article about a knitting group that takes place in a library in canada, the researchers observe that the intersection between the social activity of knitting and the library as a public place of stories and story telling allows for a rich exchange beween the knitters. Purls_of_wisdom

Ethnography as research OR practice

We’ve been reading a lot about ethnography as a research tool in both art and anthropology and debating the different methods and aims when using ethnography for such different endeavours.

Reading this article by Mark Westmoreland has provided much food for thought.