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GRAPHIC ETHNOGRAPHIES

Peep Show ...an ethno-graphic point of view

Imagine life from a bird's view—does this vantage point, perhaps perched on a towering tree, your palm, or a car antenna, encourage you to consider life and existence differently? Has the media footage of birds coated in oil from oil spills taught us anything?

I am currently working on Peep Show, a graphic ethnography drawn/written from the perspective of the author and bird companion (her consciousness). The primary theme proposes that shifting "point of view" (POV) as a literal and conceptual practice employed in visual arts, needs to occupy a central methodological stance in ethnographic methods.

Peep Show manifests the very POV shifting it comments on, as the graphics exemplify multiple perspectives, illustrating simultaneously signifier and sign. The book embraces POV as a conceptual and metaphorical tactic, one that includes social, political, biological, and individual perspectives as the dialog and visual composition. The textual/graphic narrative in Peep Show critically examines fieldwork methodology through allegory, the musings of a narrator and her bird companion. Yet, despite the playful nature of the display of the subject matter, the stories are real experiences from fieldwork...at times eerie or even troubling. I am an artist-ethnographer living with a cockatoo—and over the past twenty years it has become clear how differently we view the world.

Through history, artists in the visual and performing arts have skillfully exploited shifting observers' POV to provide a different viewing angle, perspective of a scenario, a psychological state, or the composition. The POV frame, however, does not suffice for those creative practices incorporating other sensory modes (sound, taste, touch, smell, or consciousness) where there may not be a single "point" or "view" to base one's focus. Peep Show invites readers to apply insights from theoretical, conceptual, and literal shifts of POV in the visual arts to other sensory modes of experience. As the senses are not discrete from each other in our corporeal reality, what can we learn from applying visual insights to sound or touch?

The humanity revealed behind a literal shifting of one's POV has significant potential for communicating empathy and understanding awareness of self and others. What becomes clear in Peep Show is the importance of everyday engagement in a shifting POV to provide a re-connection between the senses and the various arts disciplines in a dialogic sense. Since academia has traditionally split the arts into sensory modes (visual, audio, performance), I find awareness and creativity has been parsed as well—visual folks work in a building designated for artists, cound folks in a music department, performers housed in another department. Ethnographers, witness to living culture and art making, are gatherers of experience and interpreters of culture—continue their observations often isolated in other departments. For ethnographers to gain insights into how artists create via a shifting POV, it is vital that we not only comprehend the approach, but also actively practice POV shifting ourselves. Peep Show aims to mix disciplines to meddle with our senses and shift our points of view.





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