Accepted paper:

Filming Trance - Picturing Possession. On "Trance Mediums" and "New Media" in Morocco


Anja Dreschke (University of Duesseldorf)
Martin ZIllinger (University of Siegen)

Paper short abstract:

In our contribution we want to discuss the various interferences of technical media and personal mediumship by drawing from our film- and research project on trance and spirit possession among sufi-brotherhoods in Morocco.

Paper long abstract:

In recent years many scholars have noted the proliferation of ecstatic practices that are reproduced and diffused via technical media on a global scale. In our contribution we explore the various facets of visualization by focusing on the different ways the camera is used by both, the filmmaker and the persons filmed in their various mediation-practices. In our current film project on Trance Mediumship and New Media in Morocco (work in progress) we encountered adepts of a possession cult who have stored recording of their rituals for more than 20 years in what we propose to call their "Trance-Media-Archives". Their attitudes towards visual representation is marked by ambiguity - in between the fascination to see what remains beyond conscious experience during possession and an uneasiness towards the circulating images of their sacred practices that unfold a life of their own. Our role as filmmaker is crucial: We presented sounds and images of our own shootage in Morocco in a video-installation (travelling-exhibition Animism, Antwerp and Berlin) and combined them with locally produced videos from local archives that circulate among healers, adepts and clients in Morocco and abroad. Referring to this installation we discuss the various politics of image making (and image breaking) that are at stake when technical media and personal mediumship interfere. From a filmic perspective, we are concerned with the question of how the bodily expressions of spirit possession can be represented through audiovisual media and how emotional, innate aspects of trance can be represented through the creative use of text, voice, sound, performance and space.

panel V07
Representing the non-representable: visual representations of extraordinary beings in ethnographic films