Expedition Content (2020) by Ernst Karel & Veronika Kusumaryati
CROSSROADS 2022 — program 5
Ernst Karel & Veronika Kusumaryati’s Expedition Content
Saturday, August 27, 5:15pm at Gray Area
An immersive marvel of sonic ethnography, Karel & Kusumaryati’s Expedition Content draws on audio recordings made by recent college graduate and Standard Oil heir Michael Rockefeller as part of the 1961 Harvard–Peabody Expedition to Netherlands New Guinea that set up tents among the indigenous Hubula (also known as Dani) people. In their nearly imageless film, Karel & Kusumaryati document the strange encounter between the expedition and the Hubula people. The work explores and upends the power dynamics between anthropologist and subject, between image and sound, and turns the whole ethnographic project on its head. (The Cinema Guild)
Advance tickets here. $12 General/$10 Cinematheque Members and members of Gray Area.
Festival Pass here. $110 General/$90 Cinematheque Members and members of Gray Area.
COVID-19 SAFETY REQUIREMENTS: Proof of COVID-19 vaccine is required for entry to Gray Area. The use of masks is highly encouraged.
facebook event here
In 1961, filmmaker Robert Gardner organized the Harvard Peabody Expedition to Netherlands New Guinea (current day West Papua). Funded by the Dutch colonial government and private donations, and consisting of several of the wealthiest members of American society wielding 16mm film cameras, still photographic cameras, reel-to-reel tape recorders and a microphone, the expedition settled for five months in the Baliem Valley, among the Hubula (also known as Dani) people. It resulted in Gardner’s highly influential film Dead Birds (1962), two books of photographs, Peter Matthiessen’s book Under the Mountain Wall (1962) and two ethnographic monographs. Michael Rockefeller, a fourth-generation member of the Rockefeller (Standard Oil) family, was tasked with taking pictures and recording sound in and around the Hubula world. Expedition Content is an augmented sound work composed from the archive’s 37 hours of tape which document the strange encounter between the expedition and the Hubula people. The piece reflects on intertwined and complex historical moments in the development of approaches to multimodal anthropology, in the lives of the Hubula and of Michael, and in the ongoing history of colonialism in West Papua. (Ernst Karel & Veronika Kusumaryati) bay area premiere
Ernst Karel (US) works with sound, including electroacoustic music, experimental nonfiction sound works for multichannel installation and performance, image-sound collaboration and postproduction sound for nonfiction film, with an emphasis on observational cinema. Lately he works around the practice of actuality/location recording and composing with those recordings, with recent projects also taking up archival location recordings. He has taught audio recording and composition through the Sensory Ethnography Lab at Harvard (through 2021), the Center for Experimental Ethnography at Penn (2019) and the Department of Film & Media at UC Berkeley (2022).
Veronika Kusumaryati (Indonesia) is a social anthropologist and artist working on the issues of Indigenous politics, colonialism, conflict and violence, race/racism and digital media. The geographic focus of her research is on Southeast Asia/Melanesia, primarily West Papua, a self-identifying term referring to Indonesia’s easternmost provinces of Papua and West Papua, where she has conducted extensive fieldwork since 2012. She holds a Ph.D. in anthropology and film/visual studies from Harvard University and is currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Edmund A. Walsh School for Foreign Service at Georgetown University.