A collective of artists and social scientists that combine art and anthropology to engage in the visual exploration of urban landscapes. As artists, we investigate cities through visual means. As anthropologists, we use ethnographic fieldwork to situate our inquiry in the perspective of different people in changing places.
Our long-term project is a cross-cultural investigation of the inscription of class on urban landscapes through the eyes of the people. We will compare how socioeconomic class configures urban spaces and how material environment enforces class distinctions in cities worldwide.
In the Spring of 2007, the Artpologist Collective created a project that combined art and anthropology to study the city of Almaty, Kazakhstan and the artists that lived there. The project, which combines ethnographic field methods with video, painting, drawing and photography, became “Transformations of Space in Almaty” and was presented as an exhibit at the Soros Center for Contemporary Art in Almaty.
The founding four Artpologists- Aminatou, Daniel, Zhanara and Gaisha- discovered many commonalities in their approach to art-making and collaborative work. Aminatou Echard (Paris) was a video artist who was travelling through Central Asia, exploring the relation between people and built environments through film. Artist Daniel Gallegos (Oakland) and anthropologist Zhanara Nauruzbayeva (Oakland/Taraz, KZ) had been living in Almaty, where Daniel was investigating the legacy of Soviet architecture through paintings and drawings and Zhanara was completing her fieldwork research about visual artists after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Gaisha Madanova (Almaty, KZ), a talented young photographer, was documenting urban geographies and the objects that peopled them.
As Artpologists, we studied the everyday lives of visual artists to learn how people practiced art in Almaty. We built relationships with local artists in order to tell their individual stories against the background of the construction boom that had besieged the city over the past few years. This project would not have been possible without the generosity and collaborative energy of Kazakhstani artists, who allowed us to be inspired by the processes of their lives and work, allowing us to visit their studios repeatedly over two months, and even to use their pieces as part of the exhibit’s art-dialogue. Borrowing from the real-time methods of anthropological research, the Artpologists found art in a contemplative and meditative approach, as they engaged with a world of artists and urbanization little known outside of Central Asia.