Fieldwork

For the Tharas Shevchenko university. Kiev. April 2012.

Introduction.
Thanks for the invitation. In more then one sense I feel home here at the Tharas Shevchenko university. After art school I studied philosophy: theory of perception and early phenomenology. This developed into an interest in the philosophy of language.
A couple of months ago , Lotta Granbom from the university  of Lund, asked me to assist her in her anthropological fieldwork among the sea nomads in the Andaman sea in south- east Asia in March this year. Since I am moving back and forth between theory and practice:   assisting in anthropological fieldwork seems to be a  good way to make a combination.
The fieldwork includes the research of the dance rituals and the funeral ceremonies of the sea nomads, the Urak lawoi people.
To prepare for the expedition I read Wittgenstein’s  remarks on Frazer’s  Golden Bough, the famous anthropological 19th century epos about rituals and ceremonies.  
Wittgenstein wrote two sets of remarks on Frazer’s  book. The first in a manuscript book in 1931, the second on separate sheets at least five years later.  In the remarks  on Frazer  Wittgenstein does not discuss Frazer’s account of the rituals and magic of primitive people to throw light on religion, nor does he discuss history or anthropology. Criticizing Frazer’s voluminous epos, Wittgenstein brings up a lot of thoughts concerning “thinking” and “practicing” in the natural history of human beings, scientific theory, magical thinking, metaphysics and linguistics. The common ground in these different fields is his interest in the “mythology in our language”. He wanted to show that certain familiar expressions belong to mythology, just as certain transitions or moves we make in speaking do. He does this by showing their kinship with moves and expressions in magical practices or rituals.
In the beginning of the remarks Wittgenstein mentions that any attempt to find a theory of magic and ritual practices is futile ”since  we have to bring and arrange together in the right way what we know”……”without adding anything, and the satisfaction comes  by itself.” (he would say that this is also the method we have to follow in  philosophy, in discussing the problems of metaphysics).
What is the right way to order and arrange the material?
W. gives us guidelines :  p.9  reflection on  those  features of our own language and our ways of acting which are just the  sort of things we find being done and expressed there.
As an example of  mythology in our language Wittgenstein quotes Frazer. When Frazer writes about the fear of the ghosts of the slain  among the primitive people. You can only explain this use in   mythology.
If we recognize this kinship, the ritual observances become  intelligible, we do not need to ask why they happen. Because then we would lose ourselves in explanations, like Frazer does  according to Wittgenstein.  In a way Wittgenstein liberates and emancipates here the object of study from the 19th century anthropology , the primitive people.  In an unexpected way: in analyzing the mythology in our own language and reflecting on  it.  In an earlier version  of the first remarks he began like this:
I think now that the right thing would be to start my book with remarks on metaphysics as a kind of magic. In which I must neither speak  in favor  of magic nor make fun out of it .The deep character of magic would have to be preserved.
Here also lies the critic of Wittgenstein on Frazer: the explanation Frazer offers: that magical beliefs are crude and mistaken forms of scientific theory. In  Frazer’s explanation  the  rituals loose there deepness. I will come back to this after the intermezzo in the third part of this presentation. Wittgenstein writes in connection to the fire festivals and what comes with it: the solution is not any more disquieting than the riddle.
Wittgenstein uses the word  “erklaren” that in German means  both  : to explain and to enlighten. It is so that nowadays, as I experienced   during the fieldwork we were doing, the emphasis  of anthropology is on the visual, to enlighten the object of study. This is part of the reason Lotta invited me as an visual artist to make drawings  from the rituals and ceremonies.Her method  of documenting her research is filming.

Intermezzo: I want  to enlighten my experiences and my thinking  of the last month  during my fieldwork by  drawing something  here for you like I was doing there. This  will take 5   minutes and during this performance I  cannot talk. After this I will  come back to   the second set of remarks 
Scenario:
- preparing , double sheet of paper,  on top single sheet, fixed with tape, paper towel
-material: 2 rollers , 2 tubes of oil paint, tape, pencil
- marking position of the single sheet on the background sheets
-spreading out the  3 reconstructed stones, pads,   marking first position of the stones.
-white oil paint  on the   3 surfaces, direct out of the   tube, rolling  in the paint with roller
-printing  2 sheets with the white color, only surface no drawing, store to left
-second position of the pads, marking position 2 of the pads,
- refreshing the layer of paint on the pads
-printing two sheets again, store to right
-new  darker color  paint  on pads,
- second position  2x reprint
-refresh paint
- first position, 2x reprint
-putting vertical the underlaying sheet

Inventing a festival:
In the second set of remarks five years later  Wittgenstein  makes a difference. There  is no reference here  to the principle by which all these practices are ordered, which each of us has in his own mind, so that each could think out all  the possibilities for herself.
He triggers us  to  imagine    what it could be  to invent a festival, to invent a ritual. Here things become more uneasy , actually this  is quite a big difference with the first set of remarks.
He writes about the Beltane fire festival Frazer talks about.  Frazer thinks it is clear that these festivals  began as a human sacrifice.
( making and eating the cake with nods , who has the nod will be scarified, now as a children game but with a serious sense of something deep.  Here W.is considering more seriously what “inventing a festival” could  be)
Imaging the possibilities , the overwhelming probability  of just the idea   that  the human sacrifice is at the  origin of the festival. Just the idea that we can imagine is enough . We do not need a structuring principle behind those practices in this second set.
Wittgenstein is not using  the concept of the worldpicture yet  like he  does in his later book  in “On certainty”     but  in this  2nd set of remarks  in order to imagine a festival I have to be able to imagine the lives  of the people who take part in it .  There is this relationship between ritual and language, not because ritual is a form of language, but  in order to understand language it is also necessary to look at the lives of the people who take part.  Saying something is not determined by the knowledge of the language   which each of us carries within its own mind. Saying something has to have an application in  our life.

  “Why should  it not  be the idea that makes the impression on me? Arent ideas frightening? Here  he doesnot use the mythology in language   in the analytical sense he did in the first part. (Here  it makes sense that he took the expression from a  note by the foreword from the Grimm fairytales).
Ad. Drawing:   Diagrammatic inscriptions.
To ask for an origin
Leroi Gourhan .
The interaction from dot, line and surface, in the exchange between hand, eye and mind  is not only a medium created  out there but also a space for experimenting and thinking.
This externalization helps   in this particular  and very simple case to find  the right spot for the pads again. This is how I  know where to put them back just by marking the position of the pad by drawing a line around it.
This world in between from the inscription of this line , from the Graphismus,  realizes my planning in the printing process.  Thinking and perceiving come together in the movement of the hand on the paper. I am surprised that this small act was  really a discovery  in the fieldwork I was doing. It had to do with my thinking about mythology in language .Also the total experience, smell, stones, material
Aspect change
The stones , I went journey far away from home, I lived in different circumstances. Cut of from my daily life with its routines back home in Holland but this small gesture of marking the position of ( n reality it were  stones out of the sea that I used as writing tablet)  made me think more then anything else. Not the prints that were the  esthetic  aim  stroke me, but the  traces left behind on the  background. The papers you normally throw away after use.
Diagrammatic inscriptions  play an important role in  our knowledge production.
Graphic artifacts , like  diagrams  and maps, have different appearances but they all  share these important features and functions in   acquiring  knowledge   and realizing  thing out there. The idea that a man may never notice or try to formulate the real foundations of his inquiries is already existing in these remarks and is important. What are these features ? How can diagrammatic inscriptions get this epistemological quality?


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