Accepted paper:

Organizing Complexities: The Potential of Multi-Screen Video Installations for Ethnographic Representation


Steffen Köhn (Freie Universität Berlin)

Paper short abstract:

This paper discusses recent multi-screen video installations that express the spatial and temporal heterogeneity of transnational migration. It ties into a renewed anthropological interest in the modernist technique of montage.

Paper long abstract:

The increasing complexity of transnational migrations inevitably has led to considerable shifts in anthropological theory, in the discipline´s conceptuation of space and time. Cultural interactions in today´s postcolonial world inevitably involve a multiplicity of places and different temporal and spatial scales. For their migrant subjects, this results an overall feeling of dislocation and asynchronism. Diasporan worlds have emerged, shaped by, but independent from the mere movement of people.

This paper is concerned with the problem of how to represent these migratory movements, how to find adequate images for transnational mobility. Therefore, it explores novel ways of exhibiting ethnography. I specifically engage with the constructivist representational practice of montage that recently has received renewed attention among anthropologists as an analytical tool to compare, juxtapose, and relate different cultural geographies (Suhr/Villerslev in press).

I will discuss recent multi-screen video installations as an aesthetic form that puts forward non-linear arguments by expanding the cinematic technique of montage into the physical exhibition space. The works of artists Ursula Biemann, Angela Melitopoulos, or Multiplicity Group all render visible global relations in their systemic complexity and thus articulate spatial and temporal heterogeneity beyond the misé en scene of the single field site.

I further present my own two-screen installation " A Tale of Two Islands", a work that focusses on the border regime separating the French island Mayotte from its African sister island Anjouan, both geographically part of the Comoros. It renders visible the lifeworlds on both islands on two opposing screens thereby exploring this postcolonial space by giving the spectator access to a multiplicity of perspectives.

panel V05
Anthropological visions. atlases of difference, multimedia arcades and non-linear arguments