Animacy, abstraction, and affect in the Andean past: Toward a relational approach to art

16 Feb 2018

In this article, I set out a relational approach to Andean art, with the aim of investigating, in broad terms, the making, viewing and experience of art among pre-Hispanic peoples. The analysis draws upon the ideas of art historians, as well as upon the work of ethnographers and archaeologists, to integrate theoretical approaches that consider animacy and the ways art objects gain significance as part of assemblages. Examining four aspects of Andean art: (1) insistence; (2) abstraction; (3) networks and linkages; and (4) affect and embodied experience, I conclude that the term ‘art’ (as an analytic category) overlaps poorly with Andean categories of cognition, sociality and material practice. Archaeologists can usefully refocus attention on the ways these craft items were made, used in daily life, displayed in rituals and ultimately deposited in the places where they were found.