Social history is widely understood, but what is ethnography? It is a genre of researching and writing with its roots in anthropology. Its main investigative method is “participant observation” – a cluster of qualitative modes, which include firsthand experience of the environment, careful visual observation, attentive listening, casual on-the-hoof interviewing as well as formal in-depth interrogation, and the analysis of telling details and key documents. Participant observation is a self-conscious formalization of the naturalistic modes through which we learn generally; toddlers learn to walk and talk through a similar form of wide-eyed questioning and involvement. The participation part of the exercise usually transforms the researcher; we don’t wear a white lab coat and latex gloves to protect ourselves from what we’re studying. We don’t cling rigidly to old values but go into our chosen milieu with an open mind. In so doing, we usually change it.

~ Sarah Thornton, Art Writer (Excerpt from the Author’s Note section of her book Seven Days in the Art World)

Virtual Museums? Wow...

Everyone uses Google, well, almost everyone…

I know I use Google (as a search engine, my e-mail, etc.) so it was amazing to see their latest addition to the Google applications – Art Project! Granted, I’d much rather see the musuems of the world in person but if I can’t spend the money to go to Madrid, Paris, or London, I can pay AP a visit and see what is on exhibit!

I’ll have to explore and ruminate about this one. I’m wondering if Google will try to get a prominent museum from all countries. Oh, the possibilities and, oh, the poor artists. These days, artists will truly be on a world stage (and THAT has its own advantages and disadvantages). More thoughts to follow…

“Most of us deep down believe that a person who is creative will prevail regardless of the environment,” Csikszentmihalyi wrote. “But the reality appears to be different…. No matter how gifted a person is, he or she has no chance to achieve anything creative unless the right conditions are provided by the field.” Csikszentmihalyi identifies “seven major elements in the social milieu that help make creative contributions possible: training, expectations, resources, recognition, hope, opportunity, and reward. Some of these are direct responsibilities of the field, others depend on the broader social system.”

In the latest issue of Art Practical, Christine Wong Yap, artist and regular contributor to the online art magazine wrote a feature titled Should I Stay or Should I go? I know, I know. If you’re into The Clash (yes, I am), you probably have the song stuck in your head right about now but how aptly related to the topic at hand. Her piece addresses the physical moves Bay Area artists (San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley) have made to advance their art practices and career (to places such as New York and Prague). She provides the reader a greater understanding when it comes to the transient nature of the artist. Trust me, the majority of artists love travel and experiencing different places but it’s safe to assume that there’s a desire for stability in such a fast paced, evolving, and globalized economy. However, as clearly stated by the artists interviewed for Ms. Wong Yap’s piece, they must move where the opportunities are present.

Being a San Francisco native, I was particularly interested in reading about artists who have such a profound connection and foundation in the Bay Area. Their thoughts on making it in the art world as well as their particular reasons to move away from a place they call home forces me to explore my own aspirations. As much as I don’t want to label myself, I am an outsider when it comes to the art world. An independent scholar. I’m fervently dedicated to personal studies in Art and it goes without saying, being in San Francisco, the community is quite nurturing for the endeavors I hope to take in the next year or two (i.e., graduate studies) but I can’t help but think some opportunity in the future is somewhere else, which scares me a bit. Overall, the feature certainly has me thinking much more optimistically but realisitically about the Bay Area Art scene.

I know, wherever I find myself in the future, I would take San Francisco with me. It would be pretty impossible to leave it behind.

If you enjoy this topic, you may also be interested in Michael Zheng’s work, The Profession Project.

Oh, and, well, I couldn’t resist!