Veronika Kusumaryati and Ernst Karel images
Veronika Kusumaryati and Ernst Karel
on Expedition Content

Published on Jul 24, 2022

Ernst and Veronika talk to us about their process of composing Expedition Content, the augmented sound piece composed from 37 hours of recordings which document the encounter between members of the Harvard Peabody Expedition, particularly Michael Rockefeller of the Rockefeller family, and the Hubula people of West Papua, at the time Nederlands New Guinea. The piece reflects on visual anthropology, the lives of the Hubula and of Michael, and the ongoing history of colonialism and occupation in West Papua. “Expedition Content” premiered at the 70th Berlin International Film Festival and has been screened at Cinéma du Réel at the Centre Pompidou Paris, the Art of the Real, Lincoln Center New York, and Camden international Film Festival.

Veronika Kusumaryati is a social anthropologist and artist working on the issues of Indigenous politics, conflict and violence, race/racism, and digital media. The geographic focus of her research is Indonesia, primarily West Papua, a self-identifying term referring to Indonesia’s easternmost provinces of Papua and West Papua, where she has conducted extensive fieldwork since 2012. She holds a Ph.D. in anthropology with a secondary field in film and visual studies from Harvard University and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Asian Studies Program at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, and the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University during the 2020-2021 academic year. Her writings have been published in journals, such as Comparative Studies in Society and History and Critical Asian Studies. She is an incoming assistant professor in anthropology and international studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison starting in the spring of 2023.

Ernst Karel works with sound, including electroacoustic music, experimental nonfiction sound works for multichannel installation and performance, image-sound collaboration, and postproduction sound for nonfiction vilm, with an emphasis on observational cinema. Lately he works around the practice of actuality/location recording (or ‘fields [plural] recording’) and composing with those recordings, with recent projects also taking up archival location recordings. Sound projections have been presented at Sonic Acts, Amsterdam; Oboro, Montreal; EMPAC, Troy NY; Arsenal, Berlin; and the 2014 Whitney Biennial. Sound installations in collaboration with Helen Mirra have been exhibited at the Gardner Museum, Boston; Culturgest, Lisbon; KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin; Audiorama, Stockholm; MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge; and in the 2012 Sao Paulo Bienal. Audio-video collaborations include Expedition Content (2020, with Veronika Kusumaryati), Ah humanity! (2015, with Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel) and Single Stream (2014, with Toby Lee and Pawel Wojtasik). CDs of his often collaborative work, including with the electroacoustic duo EKG, have been released on and/OAR, Another Timbre, Cathnor, Gruenrekorder, Locust, Sedimental, and Sshpuma record labels, and a duo with Bhob Rainey is forthcoming on Erstwhile. From 2006 until 2017 he managed the Sensory Ethnography Lab at Harvard University, doing postproduction sound for vilms including Sweetgrass, The Iron Ministry, Manakamana, and Leviathan. He has taught audio recording and composition through the Sensory Ethnography Lab at Harvard (through 2021), the Center for Experimental Ethnography at Penn (2019), and the Department of Film & Media at UC Berkeley (2022).