Centre for Screen Cultures: Discussion of Expedition Content (Ernst Karel and Veronika Kusumaryati, 2020)

The Centre for Screen Cultures invites you to a discussion of a work of ‘sonic cinema’ that provokes questions around the histories of ethnographic, colonial and documentary filmmaking through its repurposing of archival material. Crossing disciplinary lines, the event will consider the interconnections of art and politics, of sound and image, and of colonialism and human rights.

Prior to the discussion (on Monday 12 April at 7pm), The Byre Theatre will be hosting a free online (and in person if restrictions allow) screening of Expedition Content. Please visit The Byre Theatre’s website to register.

This online roundtable discussion will include the directors Ernst Karel and Veronika Kusumaryati, and the musician, Korneles Siep from West Papua, who will discuss the making of Expedition Content and its significance for present day human rights abuses in West Papua.

The discussion is free and open to all – please register to attend online.

In 1961, Robert Gardner, the American anthropologist and ethnographic filmmaker led the Harvard Peabody Expedition to what was then known as Netherlands New Guinea (now West Papua). Funded by the Dutch colonial government, the group stayed for five months in the Baliem Valley among the Hubula people where they recorded many hours of audio (and filmed footage, resulting in Gardner’s 1963 film Dead Birds).

Expedition Content, an augmented work by sound artist Ernst Karel and political and media anthropologist Veronika Kusumaryati (both associated with the Harvard Sensory Ethnography Lab), is an immersive sonic experience that returns to these tape recordings and brings that history into dialogue with the neo-colonial regime and ongoing violence being experienced by West Papuans today.

As the work is primarily an audio-led piece, when watching online we recommend the use of headphones to best experience the sound.

As the screening and discussion are both free of charge, we encourage attendees to make a donation (of whatever they can afford) to support non-profit organisations in West Papua. If you wish to do so, there are two ways to contribute (please use ‘Expedition Content’ as reference):

  • Via Veronika Kusumaryati’s Paypal (pravdavero@gmail.com) and she will direct the funds to two local organisations in West Papua: Teach for Papua or the video collective West Papua Updates. Both are legally recognised as non-profits in Indonesia but they do not have the capacity to set up their own website.
  • Alternatively, you can donate via Hapin Netherlands which supports educational programmes and social-economic empowerment for Indigenous Papuans.

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