equirectangular sketch of Alfred Gell's fictional museum, pencil and digital collage, HS 2020
TRAPS AS ARTWORKS AND ARTWORKS AS TRAPS. Practice based PhD research (2018 – ongoing)
“Anthropologists don’t believe in things, they believe out of them.” – Roy Wagner
Animal traps are perspectivist technologies, capable of interfacing between worlds or jurisdictions. Like the Guyana spring trap that “turns fish into fruit” (Gell 1996), traps mobilise subjects across ontological registers and elicit extraordinary effects from unpromising materials. This research asks how hunters render something out of nothing and presence out of absence, creating value and mobility from scant resources.
The journey begins with a fictional exhibition described by Alfred Gell in his 1996 essay “Vogel’s Net: Traps as Artworks and Artworks as Traps” and an ethnography of rural pest control as it is practiced in and around the North York Moors. Treating traps as sites in which a range of often contradictory perspectival relations come into focus – hunter and prey, human and non-human, society and nature, economy and environment – this ethnography zooms out to situate the nexus of the trap in a broader mesh of natural, social, economic and political relations, and zooms in to consider the multi-sensory aesthetics of trapping as a form of “art practice” geared towards beyond-human thought and perception.
In cross-cutting between beyond-human anthropology and practices of making, a new space opens up for the production of “impossible” art forms that conflate different perspectival systems and find ingenious ways to transform their current situation into a new one.
This research is based between the UCL Department of Anthropology and the Slade School of Fine Art, co-supervised by Martin Holbraad and David Burrows.