AIL: The Anthropology of the Image Lab is a venue located in Young Hall 226 at the University of California, Davis, and an online curatorial platform. Its objective is to engage the challenges posed by the Image to both anthropological thinking and art curatorial practice. AIL therefore invites anthropologists engaged with art practices in an expanded field: from media arts, photography, and cinema, to urbanism, architecture, and design, from fashion to advertising. It is an invitation to seriously consider taking assemblages, images, and curation as sites and modes of inquiry on par with the subjects, the objects, and the comparative method routinely deployed in the social and human sciences. It is also an invitation for curators engaging “social” practices to cease equating anthropology with ethnography, ethnos, and cultural difference.
AIL is above all an expression and intercession of virtualities generated alongside the contemporary anthropology – contemporary art axis. It is not friction-free. It is an effect of an assemblage of inter-media practices whose motions and desires form a vibrant and unstable triptych: 1) a continuation of the fascinating “experimental moment in the human sciences” (Marcus & Fisher, 1985; Marcus & Clifford, 1986), 2) a reevaluation and an overcoming of the so-called “ethnographic turn in contemporary art”; and 3) a passion for the renewed dialogue with philosophy, from Paul Rabinow‘s participant-observation based concept-work to Roger Bartra‘s deployment of the essay form.
Building on the clinical and ethical registers of the term “curation”, this platform’s acronym (AIL) designates a symptomatology of the image indebted to both Aby Warburg’s pathological iconology and Gilles Deleuze’s critical and clinical studies. As a result, AIL’s “curatorial designs” aim to cultivate an empirical form of thinking with images anchored in care, cura, a cura di, curare, and the incurable. We try to practice this thinking by problematizing, counter-actualizing, and, when/if possible, reanimating a set of incurably broken figures, from the human to beauty to landscape. AIL is therefore attentive to experimental modes of life that create untimely futures and “restore belief in the world” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1991). To this end, our Podcast series engages fellow travelers who design these futures via various media forms and set of skills: book, film, photographic essay, installation, lecture-performance, instruction manual, and more.