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Art and Agency: An Anthropological Theory (1998)
by Alfred Gell
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0198280149, Paperback)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.
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:19 -0400)
In Art and Agency, Alfred Gell formulates an anthropological theory of visual art that focuses on the social context of art production, circulation, and reception. As a theory of the nexus of social relations involving works of art, this work suggests that in certain contexts, art-objects substitute for persons and thus mediate social agency. Diversely illustrated and based on European, Polynesian, Melanesian, and Australian sources, Art and Agency was completed just before Gell's death at the age of fifty-one in January 1997. It embodies the intellectual bravura, lively wit, vigor, 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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