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Curatorial Designs in the Poetics and Politics of Ethnography Today: a Conversation between Tarek Elhaik1 and George E.

Marcus2
This dialogue between George Marcus and Tarek Elhaik begins by re-visiting the shifts in research practice and paradigms initiated more than twenty years ago by the Writing Culture discussions and proceeds to evaluate the after-life of those debates in contemporary anthropological thought and practice. Conceptual affinities are exchanged, probed and refined between a key figure of the Writing Culture moment and an anthropologist trained in the aftermath of those discussions. The conversation brings a set of key strategic concepts from the cosmopolitan modernist repertoire dear to both anthropologists (montage, design, installation) to bear upon the emblematic figure of fieldwork. It folds Marcus call in the early 90s for an ethnographics as an antidote to the hopeless realism of ethnographic films and texts and recent performative para-sites at his Center for Ethnography at UC Irvine with Elhaiks deployment of curatorial practice as a procedure, method and mode of theoretical production that opens the possibility for thinking and composing an installation book. The conversation proposes these emerging figures and new experiments with form as alternate modes of mediation of ethnography in process and, perhaps, as surrogates to fieldwork itself. Marcus: What I miss most after the Writing Culture discussions of the 80s is access to the materials and processes that have produced the very interesting kinds of books and films that followed this period of critique. I find that I want to know a lot more about the research process in order to discuss what the films or books are about. But this is by no means a call by me for a return to the kind of fieldwork accounts and stories that led up to the Writing Culture debates. Indeed, given the immense changes in technologies of communication and media since the 1990s, the ethnographic text or film no longer seems to be the most relevant or cogent object to which the Writing Culture questions about representation should be directed. Those questions are still of key importance but they should now be embedded in all the diverse operations that are performed and transacted in the name of the classic term fieldwork. Fieldwork is something other today than the means to ethnography (conceived as a resulting book or film for the archive, library or most public reception possible). It encompasses a variety of forms of composition of research material that not only deserve their own expressions, both inside the intimacies and specificities of fieldwork but also alongside it as well as performances, productions, and collaborations with varying levels of reception in mind. Research today requires strategizing and imagining its own receptions, of which the originating disciplinary community is just one. The problem of representation is thus organic to the fieldwork process itself. This is not exactly a new insight, but new scales and
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Assistant Professor of Anthropology (Rice University) Chancellors Professor of Anthropology (University of California, Irvine)

technologies of communication have pushed the thinking about this problem into the terrains and relations of the process of inquiry itself, for which Malinowskian style stories of self-other, ethical reflexivity are no longer adequate. Yet, it is precisely this process which is most opaque today. We need forms, experiments with forms, alternative and performative modes of conducting research to constitute theoretical and other kinds of discussions of anthropological problems. These discussions need to be part of the same stuff of the world that ethnography is about, which requires the means, the forms, to turn the collections and materials of fieldwork today inside out for more diversely constituted audiences. Current explicit concerns in anthropology about collaboration and public anthropology, I think, are symptomatic expressions of this tendency to move beyond mere textual outcomes and to create forms for engagements with ethnography in process. My own personal evolution in this direction since Writing Culture is marked by the mid 1990s essay on the emergence of multi-sited ethnography. This was before the expansion of the internet, but it did envision, in a tentative way, a terrain in which fieldwork could no longer be what it used to be. At the same time I became interested in certain projects of installation and conceptual art that involved inquiry similar to fieldwork in their production. In a sense, these projects encompassed the sorts of alternative forms for thinking, performing, and discussing ethnographic inquiry while doing it that I believe is so important today. In a designed way, installation and performance art projects embed the product of inquiry within its doing. While I dont think ethnography is or should be the same as these art movements, my attraction to the latter captures something in terms of practice that I think ethnographic inquiry is lacking and needs very much. Finally, the development of my post- Writing Culture position, so to speak, is very much informed by the conditions of teaching research to ethnographers-in-the-making today. The orthodoxies of method and the independent mindedness and ambition of bright apprentices create the productive frictions in terms of which new (and necessarily authoritative) forms for the production of knowledge within ,as well as out of ,the contemporary conditions of doing fieldwork, can be designed. And, yes, for me, the notion of design (with borrowings from design thinking and pedagogy, which is a vast academic and professional industry in itself) has become a convenient and so far congenial category with which to think about the introduction of new forms into the venerable practice of fieldwork that collapses theory work and problem-defining into it and deepens it. Once I found its use for me, I discovered the term design, like collaboration, has been appropriated, almost with viral speed in recent times, to reconceive decoratively or more substantively the knowledge making practices in a range of disciplines and enterprises today. The Center for Ethnography, that I founded at the University of California, Irvine, has become a main venue or lab for me to explore these post-Writing Culture issues, at first around the fashion (or unfulfilled passion) for collaboration today, and now around the notion of design which incorporates the desire for collaborative solidarities of research. Having given this background, I would ask you to develop a similar account of your travel through post 1980s anthropology, ending up with an explanation of your development of curatorial practice, which I presume is a form of research and representation combined that expresses your passing through training in fieldwork/ethnography and its mixture with your 2

film and media scholarship. It is just such mixtures that best express, perform, and further this condition of producing anthropological knowledge after Writing Culture. Elhaik: To me the Writing Culture debates invoke a very specific register: that of a formative moment full of promising directions, conceptual and methodological. In this sense, the path had already been paved for those of us who arrived to anthropology through the privileged theoretical hindsight afforded by the unfolding of more than 20 years, the usual conceptual delays across disciplines and the detours of previous anthropologists in multiple modernities. Some of the questions raised during the discussions of the 1980s in anthropology have been fully addressed and worked through, others are still open to revisions, modifications, and reformulations, while some concerns ought simply to be discarded and laid to rest. In other words, the after-life of Writing Culture ought to be approached as an expansion of roads taken and not taken after the 1980s, and that have led us to formulate anthropology as the art of posing good questions while strategically and creatively designing fieldwork mise-enscenes. These questions ought to have a chance for a viable and generous future while retaining a concern for the singularity of the anthropological project and its mode of production of knowledge in this expanded field. One of the fascinating aspects of the debates surrounding the Writing Culture upheaval was to not convert this concern for anthropologys singularity for a disciplinary border patrolling. So my debt to Writing Culture takes the form of a care for preserving this ethos. This sense of continuity should not be in conflict with our passionate search for new models of conducting and conceptualizing research. I should add I began my formal training as a cultural anthropologist in the late 1990s, that is to say, at the very moment when the Writing Culture paradigm had already acquired an uneasy Janus-like situation. By then, the initial revolt had been both institutionalized and relegated to the background in the face of pressing, global political issues that would intensify in the post 9/11 era. So, for some of us at least, the point of entry into anthropologythe post-Writing Culture momentwas not so much a question of modernity vs. post-modernity or the production of experimental ethnographies and research projects only aiming at de-centering and de-colonizing the categories of Euro-American Modernity. What mattered instead was the careful handling of a tense balancing act between the political-epistemological and the formal/experimental/ontological. This productive zone of friction between the epistemological-political and the ontological-experimental, in passing also a legacy of the various historical avant-gardes, need not be couched neither in the idiom of cultural authenticity nor as a blind post-cultural turn towards neuro-aesthetics or science studies. What is required, in my view, is a return to and refashioning of the geopolitical economy of departures and arrivals of cosmopolitan modernism(s) and the discrepancies it introduces between the humanities, the sciences and art. And so far this is proving to be the most difficult task at hand, a task eloquently addressedin relation to the emergence of new fields of inquiry in the 1990s such as new media, finance capital, biotechnologyin your recent collaborative dialogue with Paul Rabinow3. For instance, the amount of controversy triggered by the shift in focus from subaltern subjects to elites and expertsor the shift
Paul Rabinow & George E. Marcus with James Faubion & Tobias Rees. Designs for An Anthropology of the Contemporary, Duke University Press, 2008.
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from other to counterpart as you recently put itcan be seen as a symptom of the tension at the heart of this balancing act. My fieldwork on/with avant-garde film and contemporary art curators in Mexico City as well as my own film curatorial practice certainly requires walking on eggshells through this minefield. I became aware of these concerns after readingfirst, as an independent film curator and years prior to pursuing a Ph.D. both Writing Culture: the Poetics & Politics of Ethnography and the collections of essays Visualizing Theory4. Both became instant reference books and manuels dinstruction. The latter was heavily informed by the critiques of representation initiated by the former, in particular the interrogation of the Ethnographers voice of authority characteristic of classic ethnographic cinema but also of the limits of the mixture of strategies of selfrepresentation and collaborative work so celebrated in post-1990s indigenous media. Conversely, Writing Culture had drawn much from film and media studies, had radicalized the rather conservative subfields of visual anthropology and the anthropology of art (slowly blurring them in the process and shifting attention away from the so-called radical alterity of non-western art and cultural forms), and inaugurated a shift towards a search for alternative forms of composition beyond the monograph and the classic ethnographic film. The radical constructivism of experimental ethnographic texts and films of the 1980s and 90s spoke directly to my unrepentant inclination toward the constructivist aesthetics and montage strategies of experimental and avant-garde cinemas and media arts from the 1920s onward, and the experimental documentaries and the Brechtian, political Cinemas of the 1970s. In this sense, this specific link between modernist visual arts and the modernism of anthropologya profoundly political connectionwas re-refashioned, almost overnight, by Writing Culture. I am thinking here of your Montage essay to which we could return. But this remains a marginal gesture in the discipline. One could indeed write the history of the multiple mis-encounters between avant-garde cinema and media, theories of montage and Writing Culture. Had it been done around the discussions during the 1980s, anthropology would have not only de-territorialized its own historical legacy but it could have shown how it could itself be a de-territorializing force tout court. How can we deploy, today, anthropologys de-territorializing force? First, by continuing the historiographic operation of recuperating previous media experiments that had re-situated art/anthropology engagements, such as those of classic experimental ethnographic experiments of Maya Deren in Haiti, Miguel Covarrubias in Bali, and Sergei Eisenstein in Mexico, or more broadly what James Clifford had called Ethnographic Surrealism. Then, in a second moment, the task at hand is to mediate anthropologys radical constructivism via the dispositifs of new technologies of communication, installation art, digital video, web-art, but through a gradual break with the Malinowskian scene of encounter and classic ethnographys reliance on the trope of alterity. This break has already been inaugurated by Trinh T. Minhhas work in Senegal and Japan, Francys Alys in Mexico, Isaac Julians in Martinique. While the radical constructivism of Writing Culture gave expression to the trope of alterity in fascinating experimental ethnographic texts and films during the 1990s, our post-Writing Culture concerns ought perhaps to be mediated through other modes of interplay of tropes and forms. Curatorial practice came to me as the most obvious experimental form to
Visualizing Theory:Selected Essays from V.A.R. Ed. Lucien Taylor. New York: Routledge, 1994. In film studies the work of Laura Marks, Catherine Russell, and Fatimah Tobing Rony has equally helped me locate the experimental between ethnography and the cinema.
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mediate my research on cosmopolitan modernism in contemporary Mexico. This interplay of cosmopolitan modernism (the trope of affinity instead of radical alterity) and curatorial work (form) operates as both a mode of production of anthropological knowledge and a complex framework of reception. Moreover, curatorial work is an inter-medial research and spatial practice that involves not only the movie-theater, the site of modernity par excellence, but also the white cube of the contemporary art museum or the independent artist-run space. This double spatial location requires that we re-evaluate hand in hand the alliance between the ethnographic and the montage of avant-garde cinema almost established by Writing Culture and the futures of the cinematic in the age of installation art, new media, etc. By framing it thus I try to harness the potentials of installation for a pedagogical use in anthropology. Curatorial work is therefore a permanent movement in/out of anthropology, back and forth between the university classroom, the movie theater, the site understood as an aggregate of detours in modernity, and the white cube. Marcus: Perhaps we can develop our exchange by unpacking further two themes that you capture in your statement: The interplay of cosmopolitan modernism (the trope of affinity rather than radical alterity) and curatorial work (form) operates as both a mode of anthropological knowledge and a complex framework of reception. First, as you indicate, affinity hearkens back to the appeal of montage effects in the hopeful discussions of the 1980s about experiments in ethnographic writing and film (my own essay5 on montage and writing ended with a call for ethnographics). Today, the possibilities of montage in theory and practice seem finally to exceed the limited sense of modes of producing ethnographic texts and filmmaking. They seem to have more to do with the performances and forms of doing research, distinctive of anthropology, that are still governed by the vague but professionally emblematic term, fieldwork. What are these possibilities? And, could we say more about the form that you are developingcuratorial practice? If radical alterity is both the milieu and what is to be explained by fieldwork, then is it the case that affinity is the milieu and what is to be explained by curatorial practice? Curatorial practices involve the kind of performances that are characteristic of installation and conceptual art (and one reason that I have been interested in studying their resonances through the 1990s with the diverse ways that ethnography seems to be produced now under the rubric of fieldwork). Lets take up curatorial practice, first, and then the possibilities of montage within it. Are you inhabiting, as a fieldworker, a well understood form among your particular subjects art worlds and their elitesas an ethnographic modus operandi, or are you inventing a form of anthropological investigation appropriate to your problem? If so how is curatorial practice as fieldwork, or its surrogate, different from curatorial practice as an art world professional modality? Elhaik: As a literary, aesthetic, and political trope, affinity is meshed with complex histories of cosmopolitan modernism and debates on modernization that do not lend themselves to easy
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Marcus, George E. "The Modernist Sensibility in Recent Ethnographic Writing and the Cinematic Metaphor of Montage." Visualizing Theory:Selected Essays from V.A.R. Ed. Lucien Taylor. New York: Routledge, 1994. 37-53.

categorization: the affinity between the primitive and the modern; the affinity between the classic trope of ritual and contemporary performance arts in the collaboration between Victor Turner and Richard Schechner; the mimetic encounters with alterity that have generated fascinating intersections between the historical avant-garde and the social sciences during the 1920s and 30s in Paris, Mexico City, New York, Sao Paolo; the political affinities fueling transnational modes of solidarity and resistance against neocolonial orders, as for instance in the context of the South-South discourses and ideological horizons of the postBandung and post-colonial eras that have generated the politico-cinematic experiments known as Third Cinemas. But the trope of affinity, as I deploy it, stands in a productive tension with the trans-cultural paradigm and consequently affinity ought to render untenable the conflation of anthropology only with the version of the cross-cultural conceptualized out of North/South ethnographic mise-en-scenes. The milieus generated by the connection of affinities ought to initiate, if not the undoing, at least a questioning and remaking of the trans-cultural6. This is an enduring tension of cosmopolitan modernisms and indeed the problem I try to address through my curatorial work. But this is an open process: one can therefore establish and deploy relations hinged on affinity in myriad ways, and generate, consequently, alternate experiments with form through those relations. Lets take the fascinating example of Michel Leiris, a staple of the Writing Culture debates and of the recent ethnographic turn in contemporary art. With Leiris, we are confronted with an instance of mimetic relation in a cross-cultural scene of encounter that generates an affinity between the practices of the Cultural Other and the conceptualization of the practice of the anthropologist. This affinity is hinged on a fracture structural to the emblematic before/after fieldwork. As is known, Leiris saw an affinity between the ecstatic ceremonies and trance rituals he studied as an ethnologist and his scene of writing haunted by ungovernable ghosts. Via a mimetic relation to alterity, Leiris makes a distinction between experience poetique and etude ethnologique, between ecriture and the social sciences. This example from the cosmopolitan modernist repertoire has been important to me, both positively and negatively. Negatively, to understand my own curatorial work as 1/ not a question of ecriture/writing (that is, writing culture) only, 2/ a form only partially derived from the curatorial practices of my interlocutors, and 3/ not a return to the unproductive question of whether anthropology is art or science. Curatorial work, as I deploy it, does not lead up to a search, after the completion of fieldwork, for a strategy of textualization that translates a scene of alterity. Positively, curatorial work is still ethnography: it requires the continuous invention of new descriptive and performative levels that are distributed asymmetrically through various tools one might call multi-media (radio interviews, the web, video loops, film introductions, text, audio commentary for a dvd collection). My understanding of the trope of affinity calls upon another register, that of the double agency of the anthropologist-as-curator, of the passage from the status of an independent film/video curator collaborating through film programs with various institutions (film festivals, public art events, Societies for Film and Media Studies, cinematheques) to that of a cultural anthropologist fascinated by the legacy of cosmopolitan modernism and its entanglements
One direction I find extremely useful is Laura Marks Deleuzian formulation of inter-culturality as the meeting of sensoria that may of may not intersect. But even there a difficulty remains: to think about the trans-cultural as more than mere encounters between national or diasporic subjects: a form of minorization that passes between both national and diasporic subjects.
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with experimental ethnography (in Mexico until now, elsewhere in the near future). The passage has also a temporal dimension: the anthropologist-as-curator operates within a longer cycle and time frame than the professional curator. Unable to curate one show after another, I tend to repeat for two or three years the same program with slight variations (different titles, re-assembling of cinematic material, rewriting of program notes, etc) in dialogue with a given site of reception. So in this sense, curatorial work is also a form of sitespecific intervention. This expansion of professional curatorial practice through the emblematic figure of fieldworkthe production of the anthropologist-as-curatoris one possibility to generate Niklas Luhmanns second-order observation. And curatorial work, as a practice of montage, of montage of the work of our interlocutors reflecting on the legacy of cosmopolitan modernism, is an expanded form of anthropological practice. But because I am still in the process of refining this tool, it is difficult for me to decide whether curatorial-work is a distinctive or surrogate form of fieldwork. Moreover, traditional film curatorial practice for the movie theater seems to be inadequate to install neither the discrepancies of cosmopolitan modernism nor the second-order observation distinctive of the anthropological mode of production of knowledge (and its pedagogical vocation). Through dialogues with curatorial laboratories in Mexico City, curatorial labs involving moving-image makers, artists and anthropologists, I am in the process of rethinking my curatorial work for the context of the museum or art space through the trans-medial practice of installation. I am beginning to wonder how a refined version of curatorial work, one that would bid farewell to the experimental ethnographic texts and films of the 90s, could result in something we could provisionally call an installation book: an experiment with form that would create a montage effect by juxtaposing curatorial work and field-work. Marcus: Could you give me some specific examples of what goes on in the curatorial laboratories of Mexico City-- and how they fit into the framework of your own investigation into cosmopolitan modernism, which seems to be an object of both theoretical and ethnographic construction for you. Also I am intrigued by your evocation of the installation book as an alternative to the production of the ethnographic text or film. It was precisely such custom-designed alternative forms emerging from fieldwork that I had in mind when I called for ethnographics at the conclusion of my 1990 montage article. This will lead us, I think, into a consideration of how you are using montage as concept and technique in your work. Elhaik: I established a dialogue with two curatorial groups in Mexico City: Curare and Teratoma. Biomedical metaphorics aside, both Curare and Teratoma invoke a diagnostic dimension I too see as a component of my own curatorial work. In addition to being an ethnographics, curatorial work is also a diagnostics in the specific conceptual sense of Paul Rabinow7. Indeed, Teratoma co-founder, the art historian Cuauhtmoc Medina, designed this
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Paul Rabinow. Anthropos Today: Reflections on Modern Equipment, Princeton University Press, 2003.

convergence of affinities, art and concept work, as a multi-disciplinary group composed of art historians and critics, curators, artists and anthropologists who explore contemporary shifts in cultural, intellectual and aesthetic productions from a wide range of practices. Teratoma is a site of encounters, debates, exhibitions, residencies, pedagogy, dialogues, archiving of textual, visual, physical and virtual information in order to allow production, debate and reception of the various cultures to come through the Latin American continent. I had the opportunity to attend the meetings and have access to the fascinating collaborative work of these curatorial labs. Teratoma stood out, in particular, for its commitment to the role anthropology had played in shaping the contours of (Mexican) modernity as well as its effort to de- and recompose the conceptual, aesthetic and affective dispositif of cosmopolitan modernism as a contemporary problem. At the time, I had read polemical anthropologist Roger Bartras experimental ethnography The Cage of Melancholy8, a scathing critique of Mexicanist discourse that diagnosed a contemporary post-Mexican condition. I was also interested in examining how the post-Mexican condition was mediated through film and contemporary art curatorial practice, and how the art of curating postMexican life troubled the all too neat dichotomy between cosmopolitanism and nationalism. Through the work of these curatorial labs, I was probing the de-linking of cosmopolitan modernism and nationalism (and the making of a third figure) in contemporary Mexico. Among the many projects that emerged from these curatorial laboratories that immediately caught my attention was Olivier Debroises attempt to re-assemble Sergei Eisensteins legendary and unfinished avant-garde film Que Viva Mexico! (1931-32). Debroise was Teratomas co-founder and a Mexico City-based French art historian who had moved there in the 70s, a fascinating cosmopolitan modern in the tradition I have spoken about during this conversation: filmmaker and curator, art historian and experimental novelist who has collaborated with major intellectual figures in and out of Mexico City, from Nestor G. Canclini to Susan Buck-Morss. His project of re-assembling Que Viva Mexico! was of course not the first of its kind. Others had done it before. But I was specifically intrigued by its research-based approach and rigorous engagement with the intersections between Mexican nationalist anthropology, cosmopolitan modernism and the historical avant-garde at work in Eisensteins unfinished film. Debroise had ushered a radical break with the trope of Mexicanism and redefined curatorial practice in 1990s Mexico by calling for both a sensorial and conceptual approach in order to sing the swan song of that strange alliance constitutive of Mexican post-revolutionary nationalist aesthetics: the alliance between the Mexican vanguardia, the nationalist intelligentsia, and Manuel Gamios nationalist/indigenista anthropology of the 1920s. Re-assembling Que Viva Mexico! in the late 1990s was an intelligent and timely move. Eisensteins film had not only relied on Gamios iconography and his political use of anthropology as a tool of social engineering, but had also contributed to establish a nationalist aesthetics that would have an enduring vocation in film and the visual arts in Mexico (the usual sublime-like iconography portraying landscapes punctuated by Volcanoes, Maguey plants, Indios, eroticized tropical Tehuantepec, etc). Debroises methodology was also interesting to me for its affinity with the site-specific installations of contemporary art. He returned to Tetlapayac, the hacienda where Eisenstein had shot Que Viva Mexico in 1931-32, to research the director's Mexican episode. The result
The Cage of Melancholy: Identity & Metamorphosis of the Mexican Character. Rutgers University Press, 1992.
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is the intriguing experimental film and art project, A Banquet at Tetlapayac, in which contemporary artists and scholars, including art historian Serge Guibault, curator Cuauhtmoc Medina, conceptual artist Andrea Fraser and other key contemporary figures, play the main historical characters involved in the making of Que Viva Mexico!. During the making of Debroises project, Tetlapayac, the hacienda that had given birth to a Mexican nationalist film aesthetics, had become the target of a site-specific intervention. Debroises project is a watershed because 1/ it is a reflection on Mexican modernity and the Mexican avant-garde, its articulation of cosmopolitan modernist sensibility and 1920s Mexican anthropology, 2/ it is a reflection on the greatest figure of cinematic montage, 3/ it is a montage of contemporary Mexico (Bartras post-Mexican condition) with nationalist Mexico of the 1920s / 30s, so a montage of past, present and a new future-in-the-making, and finally 4/ it is a montage between experimental documentary film techniques with the procedures of installation, performance arts, relational aesthetics, site-specific art practice. My curatorial work resulted in the film program Soy Mexico9 that been touring for two years from Rice Cinema, the Institute of Design in Rome, to the Tangiers Cinematheque. It is designed as a juxtaposition of Debroises film with the work of other filmmakers/curators who had done more or less similar site-specific interventions, as for instance Jesse Lerners experimental piece Magnavoz/Phonograph. In 2005 Lerner set out to turn former Estridentista poet Xavier Icaza s 1926 essay Magnavox/Phonograph into an imaginary experimental film. The Estridentistas were a Dadaist-inspired, avant-garde group of the 1920s and 30s Mexico, known for their exaltation, not of the rural-indigenista iconography found in Eisensteins Que Viva Mexico, but of technology, radio and other wireless forms of communication. Unlike Eisenstein, the Estridentistas were interested in a modernity saturated with what media historian F. Kittler refers to as phonographs, radios and typewriters. As in Debroises A Banquet in Tetlapayac, Lerner also invited contemporary experimental filmmakers, visual artists and art historians to perform similar connections between the historical avant-garde and the contemporary international visual art scene, including the experimental theater director Juan Jose Gurrola to narrate the poem and art historian Cuauhtmoc Medina to play the character of the Mexican muralist Diego Rivera who figures extensively in Icazas poem. Magnavoz elegantly adapts Xavier Icaza's Estridentista essay on Mexico's future. Writing in 1926, Icaza fused poetry with polemics in an attempt to make room for another form of mediation of Mexican modernity. The point of departure for my experiment with formthe installation book emerging from my Remains of Mexico was to orient my curatorial attention towards such site-specific gestures. The ethnographics of curatorial work requires a heightened sense of attention to the montages one encounters during fieldwork. It transforms ethnography into a process/scene of encounter with montages that eventually exceed the trans-cultural dimension of cosmopolitan modernism. But this outline of curatorial practice is just the first step towards the ecology of the installation-book. My curatorial work is a montage of montage practices and a form of media history. It is a montage of the techno-cultural and ethnographic-surrealist imaginary of the Mexican historical avant-garde. The juxtaposition of Lerners and Debroises experimental works is a strategic montage that underlines the shift
The title of the program is inspired by the eponymous little known essay by Chris Marker (1966) for what he called a film imaginaire (Commentaires 2, Editions du Seuil). The curatorial project Soy Mexico fabulates on Markers essay and can be called a curatorial program imaginaire.
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of contemporary moving-images in Mexico from the ruptures of the post-revolutionary 1920/30s to the secessions of contemporary visual arts. My aim is to curate the present and the futures of cosmopolitan modernism in the context of the post-Mexican condition and its attendant undoing of nationalist figurations of Mexican modernity. I recruit curators/visual artists/historians who deploy contemporary art strategies. The Installation book is the juxtaposition of these historiographic gestures, intersections between avantgarde film and contemporary art, and re-readings of cosmopolitan modernisms. Curatorial work is what enables, simultaneously, the ethnographics of the installation-book and the remaking of the cosmopolitan modernist imaginary. But an installation book is not an art exhibit catalog. It curates these multiple passages across affinities set in motion by a fascination for (and commitment to) cosmopolitan modernism: a re-making of the cross/trans-cultural in the context of carefully designed ethnography and via the temporality of long-term fieldwork. It is auto-ethnographic in the sense that it refines my curatorial practice; it is a montage because I work with professional editors to prepare the film fragments to be screened or to prepare video loops for an upcoming installation; it is collaborative because it co-produces in-betweens made possible by the object and mode of existence we still refer to as cosmopolitan modernism; and it is a multi-media form of theoretical production that gradually displaces the emblematic figure of fieldwork through curatorial work. Marcus: Thank you for this really informative, and spirited detailing of your way of working. I want to make just a few comments about its more general implication for the ways anthropologists produce ethnography today, across the quite diverse range of topics that animate their research. Juxtapositioning strategies of both thinking and writing in ethnography since Writing Culture have become more and more dominant. Theoretically, at least, I think they have escaped the dead hand and formal logics of a preceding binarism which they have effectively critiqued. Yet they remain rather undynamic, or at least, controlled by a narrow sense of what it is to experiment or to participate in the experiments of subjectsboth as the frame and medium of an ethnographic project. Based on my continuing discussions with Douglas Holmes, among others, concerning anthropological research in a very different sector of cosmopolitan modernism (that dealing with projects of the rational and the hyperrationallaw, technology, markets, banking etc), ethnography at its most powerful has become very much a second order enterprise evoked in your expression of a movement from ethnographics to diagnostics, and your references to Luhmann and Paul Rabinow. But what kind of research practices does this enterprise of working within, alongside, and beyond the experiments, projects, and organized paraethnography of subjects entail? You may have an advantage because you so identify intellectually with the historic movement of which your subjects are a part and seem to be very aware, but your account of the fashioning of an intricate way of,again, working alongside, within, and beyond your subjects has broader application and resonances. Certainly, it provides specific solutions to problems of practice that I have more generally posed as themes to develop at the Center for Ethnography which I established when I moved to the University of California, Irvine four years ago (see http://www.socsci.uci.edu/~ethnog/): the problem of the fully recognized reflexive subject in ethnography to whose projects and experiments the anthropologist defers in 10 1 0

order to make progress on her own (not dissimilar to the ethical deferral to native cultural knowledge in classic anthropology, but across the gulf of alterity, which we can no longer establish in an age of cosmopolitan modernism); the problem of collaboration not as the conventional notion that working together and empathetically is good, but collaborations challenge the highly individualist form of inquiry entailed in classic ethnographic fieldwork, and for which the complex evolution of curatorial practice as the primary form of your research is an exemplary improvisation of alternative; and more lately the use of design thinking and techniques as a means to rethink the classic idea of fieldwork, which opens it to exactly the sort of tailor-made invention in method that your own project, again, exemplifies. Design thinking insists upon a highly reflexive and political practice of collaboration; it allows for the sort of mimesis of subjects methods and designs as a source of ones own, still pursuing distinctively ethnographic ends (that is, it encourages the formation and intense relationships with laboratories and other kinds of entities which organize experiments and knowledge quests among ones subjects these days ,e.g., most every student these days works her way into fieldwork by passing within and through the projects of NGOs which dominate the terrains of fieldwork everywhere today); and it allows for the conception of the products of research in terms other than the monograph or the film. Indeed, the idea of the installation, while a genre of the art world, has strong associations with the maquette, the model, and the presentation within design studios. As a way of introducing alternative forms into the methods that still retain authority, especially in the training of ethnographers, I have encouraged the production of para-sites. In the flow of highly conventional fieldwork investigation, para-sites provide space and occasion for the emergence of designed events of presentation and discussion where subjects and ethnographers develop collective, if not collaborative, thinking about an ongoing ethnographic project. No better example would be your development of curatorial practices in a range of venues and media across your field. The terms are set by the experiments of others to which you have a complex, appropriative relationship by curatorial presentations. These presentations expand the publics, so to speak, for your work within its evolving multi-sited boundaries. This may sum up to more abstract discussionseven a treatiseon cosmopolitan modernism today among the artistic avant-garde of Mexico. But what we become exposed to through the forms to which you are actually devoting yourself is something far more embedded , yet in a performative and design way. You make accessible by public events in the varied venues that you have described what once resided in the private archives of fieldwork notes and recording, to which Writing Culture gave only minimal legitimated access as the limited forms of reflexive writing and expression that we have today. The installation, or installation book, poses a good example of an alternative and its challenges clear in their occasions of presentation as second order, but also powerful in their own ethnographic voice and detachment. And, finally, evoking your discussion of the installation returns us to montage and its renewed potentials in these shifting coordinates that define fieldwork. To allude to the point with which I began this set of commentsthat prevalent strategies of juxtaposition as the core of ethnographic styles of representation and analytics have become flat. Once inspired by theory and practices of montage, the deployment of juxtaposition becomes a way of managing representations and casting interpretation, though more subtly and richer than a preceding structuralist binarism. In the ethnography that invents practices for itself from its deferral to subjects experiments, in adapting creatively to imperatives to collaboration, and in the application of ideas from design process and the studio, the 11 1 1

example of montage emerges again as a way to think about juxtapositioning as a key modality not only of analysis, but of movement, performance, and composition (editing?) as three operations of invention in ethnographic research that develops its distinctive thinking in a range of contexts of reception. Issues of representation are just as important as they were in the 1980s but these issues are now embedded in the folds of the relations of research. I think the evolution of curatorial practices as you have described them reflects this distinctive spirit of anthropological research today, in which montage performance animates the enduring importance of juxtaposition without its flattening analytic compass, ending in mere irony. Instead montage is inherently tied to the dynamics of constructing the performances that are shaped by and in turn shape the path of ethnography.

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