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still Expedition Content (Ernst Karel & Veronika Kusumaryati, US 2020)

Ethnographic Listening

Eye on Art: Ethnographic Listening

Anthropological documentary experts Andrew Littlejohn and Ernst Karel discuss their area of expertise and the role of sound in ethnographic film. Later in the evening, there’s a chance to see Expedition Content, Karel’s critical look at the anthropologist and his subject.

Poster Ethnographic Listening

Ernst Karel is a musician, anthropologist, phonographer and former manager of SEL, the Sensory Ethnography Lab (Harvard University) set up by Lucien Castaing-Taylor. The latter now features, together with Véréna Paravel, in the exhibition in Eye.

Andrew Littlejohn (SEL alumnus) will talk to Karel via live stream about the phenomenon of ‘sonic ethnography’: the study of peoples by means of audio recordings. Among others Littlejohn will discuss how people produce and know places and their inhabitants acoustically, how feedback loops exist between what people aurally perceive and what they understand as belonging to their worlds, and how the art of recording and presenting sound-based media can help us to appreciate these dynamics.

Littlejohn is an associate professor affiliated to Leiden University’s Institute of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology.


Following this exchange of thoughts, Karel’s film Expedition Content (2020, with Veronika Kusumaryati) will screen: a critical look at the ethnographic classic Dead Birds (1963), about the Hubula people of Papua, western New Guinea. The latter film was directed by Robert Gardner, head of Harvard University’s Film Study Center. Dead Birds also screens in Eye on 23 April.

Expedition Content explores the dynamics between anthropologists and their subjects, as well as the relationship between sound and imagination. The screen remains almost entirely dark; we hear a montage of audio recordings made by Michael Rockefeller, a member of Gardner’s expedition to study the Dani people in 1961 who disappeared without trace. A separate ticket is required for Expedition Content.

Presented in collaboration with ReCNTR, Leiden University.


Not (yet) rated

Production year



90 min.

Event language




Part of

Paravel & Castaing-Taylor

Eye Filmmuseum presents Cosmic Realism, the first retrospective featuring the works of Véréna Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor. Trained as anthropologists, they merge anthropology, documentaries, and visual arts in their craft. The exhibition takes the viewer past seven immersive installations in which the development of the makers can be followed.

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campaign image Paravel & Castaing-Taylor – Cosmic Realism
still Expedition Content (Ernst Karel & Veronika Kusumaryati, US 2020)
still Expedition Content (Ernst Karel & Veronika Kusumaryati, US 2020)
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Current exhibition

  • 20 January — 20 May 2024

    Paravel & Castaing-Taylor

    Cosmic Realism

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