Waste Land with vik muniz – by way of replying


I know that for now we have decided to comment rather than adding. But in a way it is also a reply to what one of you asked in one of the posts, about engaging tactics of art and sociology and whether we should be more free to marry them. And I think we need to engage with both ways very carefully first, especially as it seems that the boundaries might blur.

When watching the film, which is superb, I wondered whether a sociologist would have done (engaged in the very same way) what the artist Vik muniz did with the protagonists in his project. His aim was to change life of the people he involved in the project. Sociologist do that too, sometimes. It is when sociology becomes an intervention. He wanted to change an outlook, to give chances, to help, to get attention from the outside. Sociologist want that too.  They intervene with people’s life, and might even change the direction of that life. But, I think in a different way, in a less risky way.

There is a scene in the middle of the film, where Vik’s wife tells him, it is unethical to take the people from the waste land to a gallery in London. In fact, he has changed their lives and outlooks so much that people start noticing a real transformation. She tells him, he cannot mess around with people’s psyche like that and then simply let them return to the waste lands again.  And it is exactly the coming point that he then makes that distinguishes him, an artist, from a sociologist.  He says that he wants to change people’s outlooks, even if they have to go back to the waste land. If someone gave him the same opportunity in their position, he would go for it.  What can you say? He is an artist, he shakes people’s habit/life/being up, that is his job. But, the question is, is it our job too? Of course it is nice if we can change people’s lives that we study for the better, but what if we cannot? Our ethics are different, we cannot just say ‘well but I gave it a go’. Because we might be aware of the trauma that we inflict, even if we wanted it to be a positive outcome but could not achieve it. The artist goes for the risk, but can we afford this risk? I don’t have the answer to that. But I’ve noticed that in terms of ethics it is definitely worth exploring traditions and question why one tradition engages the way they do, while others engage differently.


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