Media, Ethnology and Cybernetics

Monday, 20 February, 2012 - 15:00

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The ethnological research trips of not only writers like Michel Leiris or Antonin Artaud, but also the expeditions that anthropologists took in the 1940s – such as those of Gregory Bateson and Margaret Mead to Bali, Maya Deren to Haiti, or Jean Rouch to Mali and Niger – literally ended at the wisdom of the gods. An unexpected interference of culture-technical effects stepped between the filmmakers and the objects of their anthropological studies. Even though the filmic research reports are only intended to impart insights about culture and the cultural techniques of foreigners, they are always also records of experiences with the technical conditions of one’s own culture and own knowledge. Bateson and Mead, as well as Deren or Rouch, saw themselves suddenly exposed in the cinematographic space of their film shoots on trances and dances to a magic that was a consequence of their misunderstanding of their own Western cultural techniques. In the search for coherent cultural patterns – such as Margaret Mead has demanded for a new anthropology – researchers have seen themselves confronted with the conditions of their own subjectivity since the 1940s as if they were looking in a mirror. Those who were not able to keep a keen eye on the difference between the mirror and the image, between the recording technique and the image, and between the technical picture and cultural imagination in their observations could easily imagine that they had been entangled in the dealings of spirits and gods.   [see attached paper for more]


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