37. Why practices become form: contemporary arts in the making

Convenors’ biographies
Yaël Kreplak works in the field of ethnomethodology, situated action analysis and  conversation analysis. Her main area of research is the study of artistic practices and the work  of heritage preservation. She has conducted several fieldworks in museums, art centers and art  schools, and regularly collaborates with artists and curators. She is a lecturer at the University  of Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne and an associate researcher at the Centre d’études des  mouvements sociaux (EHESS, Paris). 

Philippe Sormani is senior researcher at the Institute of Social Sciences at the University of  Lausanne, Switzerland, and associate researcher at the Centre d’études des mouvements  sociaux (EHESS, Paris). Drawing on ethnography and ethnomethodology, he has published  on experimentation in and across different fields of activity, ranging from experimental  physics to art experiments. Currently, he is experimenting with ‘DIY AI’, digital technology,  and adversarial design.  

This panel brings together ethnomethodological studies of contemporary arts in the making. The rationale for the panel is threefold:  

Firstly, in recent years, the observation of art in the making has been at the forefront of  numerous works in the sociology and anthropology of art, which have contributed to renewing  the approach to art, by paying attention, in variable ways, to the situations and interactions  through which artworks are produced. Secondly, the ethnographic turn of art taken in the 1990s,  has led to the production of a vast body of work that accounts for the observation and  investigation practices of artists. Last but not least, the development of art research has led  artists to develop, more and more, a descriptive, even reflexive approach to their own practices  – a form of auto-ethnography. Based on this configuration, this panel offers an original  perspective on these issues, rooted in ethnomethodology (i.e., the “study of practical methods”)  broadly understood, spanning reflexive ethnography, conversation analysis, and other modes  of investigating situated action. 

In so doing, the panel brings to bear Ethnomethodology’s Program (Garfinkel 2002) on the  description of current practices in visual and performing arts. In particular, the panel’s  contributions shall explicate, enact, and/or reflect upon the “requirement of mutual tutorial  adequacy” (ibid., p. 145), thus inviting a two-way conversation: what can ethnomethodology  learn from artistic practices and, vice-versa, what might be its take-away lessons for art? By 

instigating this two-way conversation, the panel pursues three key aims: detailed investigation,  re-specification and reflection.  

The panel invites presentations that contribute to the pursuit of (at least) one of the listed key  aims and related research questions, further developed below. The use of the plural in the panel  title, alluding to contemporary arts, marks both an acknowledgement of and a plea for the  current multiplicity of artistic practices, forms, and interventions. This multiplicity finds its  technical expression in current ethnomethodology too, as this research field engages in audio  and video recording, drawing and transcribing, breaching and observing, enacting and  reenacting. Working out in perspicuous detail where the commonalities, contrasts, and critical  issues lie – in, between and across contemporary arts and ethnomethodological studies – constitutes the crux of the outlined panel.  

List of broad and relevant open questions that conference contributions are  expected to address 
Firstly, the panel is intended as a presentation of detailed investigations into a variety of artistic  practices (visual art, drawing, music, dance, performance, and so forth), discussing the  adequacy of “hybrid studies” to account for those practices – both as a follow-up and renewal  of earlier initiatives, such as Sudnow’s Ways of the Hands (1978).  

Secondly, the panel aims at re-specifying the currently fashionable debate on “artistic research”, a debate that was recently introduced in art schools as part of artistic training and its institutional  legitimation. Whereas this debate is often pitched at a generic conceptual level, the panel  proposes to home in on artistic practices in situ.  

Thirdly, the panel opens up reflection on how ethnomethodology’s own practices become form  (in autodidactic, analytic, or hybrid terms), a reflection that might challenge the art/science  binary and benefit from conceptual discussions in and around, if not beyond contemporary art  (on “experimenting,” “performing,” “framing,” etc.).  

Finally, the shift from “when” to “why” in the panel title marks a double interest: how and  why practices shape up in situ, and how practitioners develop rationales (tackle cui bono questions) for their situated practices as part of them.  

List of keywords. 
Hybrid studies; experimental methods; re-enactement; transcript; performance; documentary  approaches 

Ethnomethodology; ethnography; conversation analysis; video analysis; science and  technology studies; artistic research; performance studies; art anthropology; art history; art  theory

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