Accepted Paper:

Spatial montage, mutuality and diversity: new possibilities for ethnographic film-making  


Judith Aston (University of the West of England)

Paper short abstract:

This presentation draws on an archive of audiovisual recordings from the Sudan Ethiopian borderlands to illustrate new possibilities for conveying mutuality and diversity on film using interactive multimedia to privilege spatial montage techniques over those of sequential montage.

Paper long abstract:

The proposition here is that computers afford new possibilities for ethnographic film-making, enabling non-linear associational works to be created which generate a different relationship between authors and viewers. The experience created is more akin to reading a book, in that it is one-to-one, enabling viewers to interact with the materials presented at their own pace. With reference to Vertov's concept of Kino-Pravda and Manovich's work on database narrative, this presentation will discuss work produced to date through an ongoing collaboration between the author and the anthropologist, Wendy James. The aim of this collaboration is to explore ways in which audiovisual recordings spanning over four decades of ethnographic fieldwork among the Uduk-speaking peoples of the Sudan/Ethiopian borderlands can be incorporated into an interactive multimedia presentation to convey ideas about mutuality and diversity. The presentational techniques being developed privilege spatial montage over sequential montage, enabling viewers to interact with on-screen juxtapositions. At the heart of this work is the idea that the medium offers new possibilities for the creation of polyphonic narratives, in which the narrator's voice begins to merge with the multiplicity of voices and points of view of those being represented. It is this very multiplicity that offers such rich possibilities for engaging with complex relationships between mutuality and diversity. Whilst not replacing books or films, the argument will be made that the potential is here for an equally valid form of communication to co-exist alongside other forms, thereby extending the narrative possibilities of ethnographic film.

Panel W038
Twenty years of teaching visual anthropology: where are we and how did we get there?