Collaborative study of Senufo arts—one of the most celebrated styles of so-called historical or traditional arts of Africa throughout the twentieth century—has led to the rethinking of what we thought we knew. When Susan Elizabeth Gagliardi and her colleague Constantine Petridis of the Art Institute of Chicago first launched their collaborative, in-progress, born-digital publication project now known as Mapping Senufo: Art, Evidence, and the Production of Knowledge, they sought to create a digital map showing West African locations linked to individual objects labeled as Senufo. The mismatch between precision that pins on a digital map implied and uncertainty in source data prompted them to reconsider the nature of their evidence and shift the project’s focus to a study of the quality and character of information about Senufo arts. Their attention to digital data has revealed ambiguous details and sparked reimagining of the form of the scholarly monograph with interventions from a visual artist. Through discussion of ongoing research related to the project, Gagliardi will demonstrate ways in which embrace of digital tools and methods may direct focus back on analog documents and objects as well as their original contexts and the research process.
Susan Elizabeth Gagliardi is Associate Professor of Art History at Emory University. Her scholarship draws on extensive study in West Africa, with a focus on western Burkina Faso, as well as archival and object-centered research in Africa, Europe, and North America. She published her first book Senufo Unbound: Dynamics of Art and Identity in West Africa (2014) in conjunction with a major international exhibition organized by the Cleveland Museum of Art. Her second book Seeing the Unseen: Arts of Power Associations on the Senufo-Mande Cultural “Frontier” is slated for release in early January 2023.
Organised by Dr Stephen Whiteman (The Courtauld) and Dr Austin Nevin (The Courtauld) as part of their Frank Davis Memorial Lecture series titled ‘Art History Futures: At the Junction of the Digital and Material Turns’.