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Sensory Ethnography Lab: Experiments with Cinema

Special Event

Harvard Art Museums
32 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA

This series highlights contemporary work produced at Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab (SEL) exploring the intersection of cinema and anthropology. Directed by Lucien Castaing-Taylor and managed by Ernst Karel, the lab provides an academic context for the development of creative works that test and respond to the traditions of documentary film. Anthropologists and artists who conduct research at the SEL investigate processes of realism and representation, expanding the potential of visual and acoustic media to represent indigeneity and alterity, lived experience and cultural difference, around the world.
The depictions of landscape and time presented in this series resonate with those found in the Harvard Art Museums’ special exhibition Everywhen: The Eternal Present in Indigenous Art from Australia (February 5–September 18, 2016) and in Ben Rivers’s nine-channel installation The Shape of Things (July 1–October 25, 2016), commissioned as a project for the museums’ Lightbox Gallery, on Level 5. Each of these projects challenges our relationship to the past, revealing new strategies for encountering ancestral and natural worlds.

Join us for weekly Sunday programs during the run of the series.

About today’s event:
Sound program by Ernst Karel
Morning and Other Times (2014)
30 min.; audio (7.1 version)
Swiss Mountain Transport Systems, Radio Edit (2011)
55 min.; audio (7.1 version)

Morning and Other Times is a 7.1-channel sound composition that was recorded over a period of four weeks in the city of Chiang Mai, Thailand, in early 2014—a few months before the military coup.  The piece takes note of the voices of nonhuman participants in the urban environment, against a sensible background of nationalism and militarism in the Thai social landscape.

Swiss Mountain Transport Systems, Radio Edit consists of location recordings made during the summer and fall of 2008 of the various transport systems in Switzerland that are specific to mountainous terrain—gondolas (aerial cable cars), funiculars, and chairlifts. In this way, the album is a sonic investigation of the integration of such technology into the Swiss social-geographical landscape. Recorded from within mostly enclosed mobile environments, this emergent music includes quasi-harmonic mechanical drones, intermittent irregular percussiveness, and transient acoustic glimpses of this vast landscape inhabited by humans and other animals. With occasional percussion by Helen Mirra.

The event will be held in Menschel Hall, Lower Level.

Producer Ernst Karel will offer introductory remarks and will participate in a conversation with the audience after the program.

Free admission

Support for this program is provided by the Richard L. Menschel Endowment Fund. Modern and contemporary art programs at the Harvard Art Museums are made possible in part by generous support from the Emily Rauh Pulitzer and Joseph Pulitzer, Jr., Fund for Modern and Contemporary Art.

Lead support for Everywhen: The Eternal Present in Indigenous Art from Australia and related research has been provided by the Harvard Committee on Australian Studies. The exhibition is supported by the Australian Government through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Australian Consulate-General, New York.