Project Module 2: Film Project /Media Project (15 credits)

The Character, the Plot and the Spectacle: Anthropological Challenges and Narrativity in Ethnographic and Observational Cinema (Dr. Peter Crawford)

In-house class

Film is about something, but so is anthropology. Lying behind my very inclusive attempt of delineating what an ethnographic film is, is that these two ‘abouts’ must somehow be seen to be compatible and inform one another. I have spent more than thirty years fighting for ethnographic film and visual anthropology to be permissible in mainstream anthropology. Realizing that anthropologists too were story-tellers, the concept of narrative increasingly infused the debates with issues that in many ways reopened the doors to the world of film, most possibly because narrative film had become the most common form of cinematic structuration, not only in fiction films but also in documentary and ethnographic films. Film, being both record and language, obviously offered ways of looking at some cultural aspects which word-based research could only manage with great difficulty, perhaps most evidently those aspects that relate to what we now describe as the ‘corporeal’ and forms of embodied culture and knowledge, involving the senses in a more direct way than the intellect.

The purpose of this seminar is to trace the theoretical implications of these developments, and take into account how they have been affected by technological developments in the history of cinema and to question how they possibly are currently undergoing even more radical changes due to digital media technology, which we already know has revolutionized our ability to produce and give access to ‘information’. The question remaining is whether such technology may also assist us in finding new ways of procuring anthropological ‘knowledge’ or possibly even new forms of knowledge? Those of us involved in ethnographic film and visual anthropology, who have been arguing that the use of audio-visual means cannot but improve the anthropological endeavour, should perhaps realise that the time has come to raise more awkward and challenging questions, acknowledging that there are, at least potentially, also serious tensions between the agendas of anthropology as an academic discipline and cinema as a form of art.

© Mike Terry 2015, Berlin

Representing the Field (Dr. Mark Curran)

In-house class

Mindful of the preparation for your practice-led MA theses, this course will draw on qualitative research, methodologically-informed by multivocality and montage, in addition to presentations by members of the group. Proposing critical and ethical considerations regarding representation, theoretical understandings with particular reference to the culture of power, the overarching agenda is to assist in the clarification towards the formulation of a critically informed, engaged and responsive fieldwork framework.

Learning Constructive FEEDBACK:  the Meta-analysis in the M.A. Laboratory - In-house-class (Dr. Rossella Ragazzi)

In-house class

The training to anthropological research rests mostly on various abilities in collaborating, and the media-anthropological classroom can be such a laboratory of “scientifically organized sociality” where these abilities can be explored and enhanced. The meta-knowledge (originated by feedback, in a systemic perspective) is therefore very important. Students today come to the classes equipped with a more diverse luggage than the one of former times. They are conscious of the difficulties of multi-mediality, but they are also familiar and often very advanced in its idioms. Moreover, technology intrigues most of them, and at the same time, it is already part of the “extensions” of one’s body, since a tender age. The critical history of visual cultural studies is something that students contact already through social media, via the access to international networks, websites utilized like critical archives, fast inter-exchange of data through the virtual networks in which they take part. A classroom cannot be a place where these data are ignored. Nowadays, most of the social actors (those represented, in traditional terms) are also literate in the digital and visual technologies. So, it is not only a form and a language that is transculturally crossing several social arenas, but an integral part of most cultures, and therefore the feedback modalities aren’t anymore those described by many texts of the past. We shall learn to challenge our idea of democratic communication, the use of the archive, and the reality of fictional knowledge.

It means therefore also that we can learn to communicate to receptive social actors that, not unlike the students, are using their technologies to comment or read about the research, or to verify the data and information received while listening to the words of instructors/researchers, and that are bold when it comes to their mental storage ability, also thanks to such technological devices. We all, instructors, researchers, students and social actors, are immersed in such environments and practices. Our roles are more and more blurred. But this modality, if we watch “Moi un Noir”, or “Jaguar” (Jean Rouch), was already happening at the beginning of visual anthropology. It is important that we read also some past endeavors in this light. 

From one side, I stress the systemic aspect of such an education, in which the process is in focus, in addition to an awareness that these are shared creations in the end, which stem from the fieldwork’s qualitative outcome. We shall analyze such collaborative modalities, in the arenas where our research is generated, and therefore learn to communicate and change our perspectives in our open but also protected laboratory. I see these laboratories as rhizomatic systems of expertise where we train to enhance the sense of agency needed in a multidisciplinary teamwork. 

Saying something with and about photography (Dr. Samuli Schielke)

In-house Class

In this class, which accompanies the process of preparing your MA theses, we look at the relationship of photographic and ethnographic practice and anthropological theory. Visual anthropology in particular is an experimental field where there is no standard solution to finding the right combination of theoretical and methodological experiment and of saying something about the world and the human condition. In this class we therefore take up specific examples (including your own) of what ethnographic research and anthropological theory can and need to accomplish, and what photography and other visual methods can do to say something that could not otherwise be said about the world. In the process, we will also take up the question about what photography as a social practice can tell about being in the world in a given place and time.

© Mike Terry 2015, Berlin

The Site of Research (Dr. Laurent Van Lancker)

In-house Class

Through an exploration of current trends in the grey zone between art and anthropology we will debate the possibility of going beyond representation and contextualization in Visual Anthropology. It will discuss the possibilities of multi-sited and auto- ethnography. This course we will elaborate on theories developed by Catherine Russell, George Marcus, and Chris Wright.

Most importantly, through examples we will discuss how to evolve from an idea, an intention for a project to concretely developing it into the process of filmmaking via a focus on the relation form - content, and image-sound. 

Cinema, machine of the visible (Dr. Nadine Wanono)

In-house Class

As soon as we adopt the rules prescribed by production and multimedia we are wandering in a space, which introduces us to conditions of experience. Deleuze explained: "...the condition must be a condition of real experience, not of possible experience. It forms an intrinsic genesis, not an extreme conditioning. In every respect, true is a matter of production, not of adequation". Difference and Repetition (Gilles Deleuze 1968-154) In short, Deleuze's response to Kant and Hegel is not a return to classical empiricism or the primacy of the actual in sense experience. He argues that experience itself is the result of a genesis that is both creative and open, and which contains its own necessity. We will focus on code as a possible language for representing the complex realities we faced during our fieldwork as a visual anthropologist. We will leave the "cinema as machine of the visible as Comolli once phrased it" (Parikka 2012-35), to integrate code as a possible language to reveal invisible manifestations or relations.

Building upon Marcos Novak's conceptual proposition of "transvergence" (2002), we will examine different possibilities of modeling and simulation, which now offers us access to "apodictic aesthetic". This research on code, its utilisation and the multiple modeling that we could work on, gave us access to these new forms of representation and helped us modify our approach in order to propose an innovative relationship between "documented realities and their audio-visual interpretation" (Wanono 2012-4). As anthropologists and filmmakers, digital programming provide us the opportunity to create ways of representing the invisible through software « visibly invisible or invisibly visible essence »(Chun 2010-35). When Chun (2008-70) identifies the « code as re-source », positioning an «interface as a process rather than as a stable thing », it resonates with Simondon and the concept of individuation. In Mode of existence of technical object, the author explained: “ ...the machine is an alien; it is an alien that has something of the human is locked in, unrecognized, materialized, enslaved, but human nonetheless. The most powerful cause of alienation in the contemporary world resides in this failure to understand the machine, which is not caused by the machine but by the non-understanding of its nature and its essence, by its absence from the world of meanings, and by its omission from the table of values and concepts that are part of culture.”...“The real improvement of machines, that which can be said to raise the level of technicity, has nothing to do with an increase in automatism but, on the contrary, with the fact that the functioning of a machine conceals a certain margin of indeterminacy. It is this margin that allows a machine to be sensitive to outside information”.

We will examine different productions/ installations, which could illustrate this position in order to give to the student references and insights for their master thesis project.