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"there was a piece of themselves there": Audience and the Folk Arts of Social Change

By Daniel Littlewood


A variety of perspectives have been brought to bear on how audiences of cultural\ud Displays interpret and act upon images. This thesis is limited to museums and movies, leaving the immense field of literary criticism about reception untouched. Time prevents me from going into that discipline, unfortunately. The focus on visual images that are the mainstay of museum exhibits and films and videos is a connecting bridge between these two fields. Their mutual concern of transmitting meaning to an audience through visual and sometimes aural means make combining the literature on both sensible. Questions about control of production are asked about both film and museums, with a specific concern about who is in control of the image, both in its production and its distribution. Writings on indigenous film, for example, would be wise to consider examples of local museums as a similar enterprise of image-based cultural display. Combining theoretical perspectives on movies and museums lets a wide range of authors contribute to investigations into how audiences interact with displayed images. This synthesis can make my analysis of the Folk Arts of Social Change exhibit relevant to visual anthropology as a whole, rather than confining the work to audience reception of a museum exhibit. The chance to extrapolate from the specific case into a wider critique of studying reception of images is exciting. Finally, I feel that ethnographic study of audience response to images is an under-used method, and any attempts at such methods are worth a shot

Year: 2000
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