The active principle of the Ugly

The Ugly is not a “Being”. The Ugly is a “Becoming”. Its condition is not static. It lives in a relative, entropic, and never definitive axiological spectrum. It is a negation, the active principle of negation.

Finding a “frame” of the Ugly implies recognizing dimensions of reality that distance us from a promise of happiness [1] and on which the process of making something invisible appears as the possible response to this confrontation. We find in the avoidance of this cut of the Ugly a subterfuge to the condition of its presence that, individually or institutionally, is chosen to omit and relegate to a sphere of untruth.

The simulacrum of phenomena that seem to attack one´s sight and feeling is a solution that allows appearance without reality, the imagery representation that we can pay attention to or not, imploding the load of sensitive and ethical experience. But, despite the trivialization of the Ugly through contemporary informative mechanisms of simulacrum [2], the manipulated imperfect copy can always be the ghost that returns to provoke the observer and emancipate his gaze, lifting the veil of superficiality.

In this process of finding the Ugly, almost always hidden under camouflage that pushes it to the periphery towards a nebulous collective consciousness, only looking at the continuous process of emancipation fueled by reflection allows us to detect the deception of its simulacrum. In a meeting promoted by science and art, everyone can become an anthropologist of the phenomena of Ugly that he chooses and insists on bringing from the periphery to the center, to the stage that is rescued from the margins. The anthropological gaze is undoubtedly a gaze that emancipates itself and can emancipate itself, in the way it can connect to individual and collective memories, and in the practice of appropriation (ideological, political, epistemological, and ontological) that prepares the reciprocal terrain to give know the Other to the Other. In anthropology, the ethnographic practice of drawing, which inevitably de-banalizes the real, provides a valuable contribution as an attentive and subjective “tool” and an interface of appropriation [3] as a basis for phenomenological research. In this perspective, the ethnographic drawing in Visual Anthropology goes beyond the graphic product achieved, it is above all constructed in a fluid progression towards a vision of a Praise for the Ugly [4], which exalts, excites, and disconcerts.

In a negotiation between external and internal visions, it contradicts both the stereotyped graphic tools and the contaminated and preconceived perceptive layers of the frames it seeks, making visible the silences and invisibilities of the ethnographic universe [5].

Berger reaffirms the centrality of the subject and its uniqueness in the production of observational drawing: a drawn tree is not a tree, but a “tree drawn by someone” [6]. The rescue of drawing in anthropological work becomes an expanded way of seeing, feeling the ubiquitous ugliness and a form of recording that moves away from the mechanized gaze of the lens. Its temporality (of the graphic record) encourages the designer to investigate and dissect the aspects made visible by the light and unveil the hidden places in the projected shadow. It is a time of reflection that refers to the old anthropology, but that contemporary visual anthropology, at the time of the shooting, lacks the synchronous and fleeting message.

[1] Nehamas, A. (2007). Only a Promise of Happiness: The Place of Beauty in a World of Art. Princeton University Press.

[2] Baudrillard, J. (1991). Simulacros e Simulação. Lisboa: Relógio D’água. pp. 151–158.

[3] Malysse, S. (2006). Entre Arte e Antropologia: diálogos e apropriações. Schneider Arnd and Wright Christopher (Eds). Contemporary Art and Anthropology, Berg, Oxford, NY.

[4] Calheiros, L. (2018) Elogio do Feio na Arte, A fealdade artística da Antiguidade ao Século XX, Edições Esgotadas. isbn: 9789898911032.

[5] Kuschnir, K. (2016). Antropologia e desenho. Editorial A antropologia pelo desenho: experiências visuais e etnográficas, 5(2) p. 5-13

[6] Berger, J. (2005). Berger on Drawing. Jim Savage (ed.) Aghabullogue: Occasional Press.


image credits: photo by Fabian Centeno on Unsplash

(Portuguese text in the next page/ texto em português na próxima página)

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