Ethnographic studies are examined through a curatorial lens.
You can’t express in an art exhibition the ways in which the histories and lives of three distinct places intersect if you aren’t a curator—or can you? At The New School,
Parsons School of Design,
New School for Social Research, and
Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts students dare to combine academic study with curatorship, turning scholars into curators, curators into scholars, and a gallery show into a dynamic conversation on the past and present leading to an imagined future of three interconnected nation-states.
In an interdisciplinary three-part workshop unlike any other, three professors, Jaskiran Dhillon, Radhika Subramaniam, and Miriam Ticktin; one New School for Social Research graduate student, Elise Gerspach; two Eugene Lang College students, Andrea Gil and Veija Kusama-Morris; and two Parsons graduate students, Laura Belik and Quizayra Gonzalez, merged ethnographic and curatorial studies and teaching methodologies to explore the complex relationship between the United States, France, and Cambodia.
The unique experience began in the classroom with three overlapping courses covering refugees, migration, and curating in the public domain. Students from each were invited to participate in a workshop, from which two smaller groups were chosen to have a direct ethnographic experience in France or Cambodia. Through this field experience, students were given a learning opportunity impossible to simulate in a classroom and were challenged to think outside of the U.S. context and instead consider their intellectual and political histories and experiences in relation to both Europe and Southeast Asia.
Rather than writing the typical research paper on their workshop experience, students curated an exhibition called Futurographies, a reimagining of the shared histories of Cambodia, the United States, and France, which illuminates a possible new future for the three nations. Through video and sound installations, sculptures, and photographs by Cambodian, French and U.S. artists, and a historical timeline that demonstrated the powerfully interconnected histories, Futurographies presented a collision of cultural and political imaginations, engaging the public through art, scholarly research, and written history. The Futurographies exhibition itself has a promising future, with scheduled openings in Cambodia and Parsons Paris in winter 2016 and spring 2016 respectively.
With its commitment to breaking down barriers between disciplines to create new academic possibilities and spaces for reflection and social change, The New School is a force of collaboration, innovation, and cross-cultural expression. Be a Force of New.
Photo credits: Livia Sà