The Mediated Voice: Expedition Content (Event)

The Mediated Voice, 2020-21 Centre For Screen Cultures, University Of St Andrews

From Michel Chion’s The Voice in Cinema to more recent work by scholars such as Rey Chow, Pooja Rangan, and Jennifer O’Meara, film and media studies have been heavily invested in understanding and theorising the voice through their analyses of what Chion terms cinema’s “vococentrism.” In 2020-21, the Centre for Screen Cultures will host two events that are connected by their shared attention to the mediated voice. We invite participants to respond to two recent documentaries: in Semester 1, Yours in Sisterhood (Irene Lusztig, 2018) and in Semester 2, Expedition Content (Ernst Karel and Veronika Kusumaryati, 2020). These works draw on sonic and epistolary archives, and both ask us to consider what’s at stake in the acts of voicing, listening, and silencing that are at times implied, and at other times made explicit, through their processes of (re)mediation.

Screening and Discussion of Expedition Content (Ernst Karel and Veronika Kusumaryati, 2020).

The Centre for Screen Cultures warmly invites you to a screening and 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.

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 sound 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.

On Monday 12th April at 7pm, The Byre Theatre will be hosting a free online (and in person*) screening of Expedition Content. Please visit The Byre Theatre’s website to register . As the work is primarily an audio-led piece, when watching online we recommend the use of headphones to best experience the sound.

On Wednesday 14th April at 2pm, we will be joined by the directors: sonic artist, Ernst Karel and anthropologist, Veronika Kusumaryati, and musician, Korneles Siep 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 here.

As the screening and discussion are both free of charge, we warmly 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):

  1. Via Veronika Kusumaryati’s paypal ([email protected]) and she will direct the funds to two local organizations in West Papua: Teach for Papua or the video collective West Papua Updates. Both are legally recognized as non-profits in Indonesia but they do not have the capacity to set up their own website.
  2. Alternatively, you can donate via Hapin Netherlands that supports educational programs and social-economic empowerment for Indigenous Papuans.

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

At the core of both of these works are ethical questions around whose voices are heard and whose are excluded through processes of mediation. We hope that these screenings will provoke discussion around the different ways in which these documentaries’ uses of archival sources, in both sonic and epistolary form, can allow us to draw connections between the present moment and historic acts of violence brought about by the silencing of marginalised voices at different moments in history.

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