Because aspects of the social world do not reveal themselves unmediated and unprovoked […] researchers need to effect interventions or cause other forms of methodological ‘rupture’ to gain access to inaccessible aspects of the social world

Rane Willerslev, George Marcus, and Lotte Meinert in Ethnos 2016: 5

How does knowledge appear to us in our imaginations when we learn new things? What happens visually in our minds when complex concepts are conveyed to us? How understanding this process can further the dissemination of anthropological knowledge?

We are VAI. And these are the central questions that we explore. VAI is an experimental anthropological project. It is centred around designing and facilitating workshops where illustrators and anthropologists come together to explore how academic knowledge can be transformed from theoretical concepts into works of art that may help convey this knowledge to the public. In a VAI workshop, illustrators gain complex anthropological knowledge by working with it through their own craft.

Anthropological knowledge and concepts often seem strange and not very straight forward. Maybe this is why anthropology isn’t as accessible to the public as philosophy, sociology and psychology. VAI seeks to change this. We want to make anthropology more accessible to the public, because we believe its basic insights, ideas and methods can have positive impacts in our society.

VAI has conducted two workshops so far. The pilot experiment took place in Viborg in April 2017 and was conducted with seven illustrators from The Animation Workshop. The second experimental workshop was conducted in Randers in November 2018 with 46 students from Den Skandinaviske Designhøjskole.

VAI is devised and conducted by anthropologists Mattia Testuzza, Anders Norge Lauridsen and Morten Røndal Olsen.