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

The Centre for Screen Cultures invites you to an online (and in person*) screening of a work of ‘sonic cinema’ that provokes questions around the histories of ethnographic, colonial and documentary filmmaking through its repurposing of archival material.

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).

Please visit The Byre Theatre website to register for the film screening.

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.

Following this screening (on Wednesday 14 April at 2pm), the Centre for Screen Cultures will host an online roundtable discussion with directors Ernst Karel and Veronika Kusumaryati, and the musician, Korneles Siep from West Papua, who will discuss the making of the work 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.

You may wish to make a donation (of whatever you can afford) to support non-profit organisations in West Papua. 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.

*If Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted, the screening will also take place in person (with limited seating to meet with safety measures).

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