Art and Agency: An Anthropological Theory
Alfred Gell puts forward a new anthropological theory of visual art, seen as a form of instrumental action: the making of things as a means of influencing the thoughts and actions of others. He argues that existing anthropological and aesthetic theories take an overwhelmingly passive point of view, and questions the criteria that accord art status only to a certain class of objects and not to others. The anthropology of art is here reformulated as the anthropology of a category of action: Gell shows how art objects embody complex intentionalities and mediate social agency. He explores the psychology of patterns and perceptions, art and personhood, the control of knowledge, and the interpretation of meaning, drawing upon a diversity of artistic traditions--European, Indian, Polynesian, Melanesian, and Australian. Art and Agency was completed just before Alfred Gell's death at the age of 51 in January 1997. It embodies the intellectual bravura, lively wit, vigour, and erudition for which he was admired, and will stand as an enduring testament to one of the most gifted anthropologists of his generation.
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The Problem Defined The Need for an Anthropology of Art
The Theory of the Art Nexus
The Art Nexus and the Index
The Involution of the Index in the Art Nexus
The Origination of the Index
The Critique of the Index
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abduction Abelam aesthetic agent/patient aniconic animacy animation anthropological anthropological theory anthropology of art anthropomorphic apotropaic art objects artefacts Artist-A artist’s aeuvre artistic agency artworks attributes basic body carving caryatid causal cognitive concept context Cubist culture decorative depicted devotee discussion divinity Duchamp etua motif example externalist exuviae eyes face fact figure formula Gell homunculus hope vehine human iconic idolatry idols illus images Index-A instance intentional kake kind kitoum kolam Kula magic Malangan Maori Maori meeting houses Marcel Duchamp Marquesan art Marquesan style Marquesan tattoo mata hoata mauri mediated mind painting particular patient pattern person personhood possess priests produced protentions prototype Prototype-A psychology recipient Recipient-P relations relationships retention ritual Rokeby Venus seen semiotic sense sitting etua social agents sociology of art sorcery Source Steinen stilt-step stone stylistic symmetry Taleju tattoo theory of art things tiki transformation visual ween