Anthropologist and curator Alex Ungprateeb Flynn joined the faculty of UCLA’s Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance in 2021. Working collaboratively with social movements and contemporary art practitioners, Alex’s practice explores the prefigurative potential of art in community contexts, prompting the theorisation of fields such as the production of knowledge, the pluriversal, and the social and aesthetic dimensions of form. Having worked in Brazil since 2007 with the Landless Workers’ Movement and more recently in Mexico and Argentina with cartonera publishing, Alex’s work has increasingly focused on the intersection of ethnographic and curatorial modes of enquiry, resulting in exhibitions and public programmes in Paris (Concrete Mirror, with Noara Quintana) and São Paulo (Releituras, with Beatriz Lemos). From 2016 to 2017, Alex was co-curator of the Residência Artística Cambridge, an artistic residency programme based within an occupied building in downtown São Paulo. For this project, Alex received the São Paulo Association of Art Critics 2016 APCA Trophy. Alex has taught at Durham University and University College London and held research positions at the University of Cambridge, EHESS, Paris, Universidade de São Paulo and the Iberoamerikanische Institut, Berlin. He also coordinates FORM*AT, a platform that explores how artistic approaches can prompt a reconceptualization of anthropological theory and practice.
Curatorial practice, art and sociality; ethnography; social movement theory and utopias; anthropological theory and practice; existence as resistance in Brazil and Latin America; the pluriversal and (de)(anti)colonial; socially engaged art.
Creative practice and research
Concrete Mirror: together with the artist Noara Quintana, this project, based in Paris, created a series of dialogues, workshops and an exhibition to explore how the social sciences can engage with the particular genres of knowledge and ethics that contemporary art proposes.
Residência Artística Cambridge: an artistic residency programme based within an occupied building in downtown São Paulo, this 15 month project focused on the participatory and open-ended potential of the contemporary art research process, departing from a premise that conceived of the artist as a producer of knowledge and theorising agent
Art beyond the horizon: a 2 day symposium based in São Paulo, this event proposed a non-Eurocentric critical reflection on the intersections of artistic, aesthetic and political practice to rethink notions relevant to future directions of contemporary art
Alex’s scholarship has been recognized with British Academy and Arts and Humanities Research Council fellowships, and a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Cambridge among other awards.
Publications include: Anthropology, theatre and development: The transformative potential of performance (2015), The curator, the anthropologist: ‘presentialism’ and open-ended enquiry in process (2019) and Returning to Form: Anthropology, Art and a Trans-Formal Methodological Approach (2019).
Current research focuses on cartonera publishing: a unique Latin American phenomenon that is part community activism, part contemporary art project and part sustainability initiative. The research highlights how artistic approaches can dialogue with the methodologies of anthropology: how researching and experimenting with contemporary cultural practices — located at the interstices of art, society and politics — prompts a reconsideration of our understanding of ethnography, bringing to the fore collaborative and multi-disciplinary methods.