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Expedition Content

Ernst Karel and Veronika Kusumaryati
2020, DCP, 78 minutes


In 1961, filmmaker Robert Gardner organized the Harvard Peabody Expedition to Netherlands New Guinea (current day West Papua). Funded by the Dutch colonial government and private donations, and consisting of several of the wealthiest members of American society wielding 16mm film cameras, still photographic cameras, reel-to-reel tape recorders, and a microphone, the expedition settled for five months in the Baliem Valley, among the Hubula (also known as Dani) people. It resulted in Gardner’s highly influential film Dead Birds, two books of photographs, Peter Matthiessen’s book Under the Mountain Wall, and two ethnographic monographs. Michael Rockefeller, a fourth-generation member of the Rockefeller (Standard Oil) family, was tasked with taking pictures and recording sound in and around the Hubula world. Expedition Content is an augmented sound work composed from the archive’s 37 hours of tape which document the strange encounter between the expedition and the Hubula people. The piece reflects on intertwined and complex historical moments in the development of approaches to multimodal anthropology, in the lives of the Hubula and of Michael, and in the ongoing history of colonialism in West Papua.


Acropolis Cinema, Lumiere Music Hall, Beverly Hills, January 14-20 2022
Expedition Content Expanded: Robert Gardner + Imageless Films, Anthology Film Archives, NYC, January 7-16 2022
Camden International Film Festival, September 2021
Centre for Screen Cultures, Screening & discussion with the composers and Korneles Siep,
    University of St. Andrews, April 2021
Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV),
    Screening & webinar with the composers and Korneles Siep and Fridus Steijlen, March 2021
AricaDoc, Chile-Peru-Bolivia, January 2021
Art of the Real, Film at Lincoln Center, New York, November 2020 [US premiere]
The World of Knowledge 2020, St. Petersburg, Russia, October 2020
Festival Internacional de Cine Independiente de La Plata, Argentina, October 2020 [Latin American premiere]
International Kaunas Film Festival, Lithuania, September 2020
Open City Documentary Festival, London, September 2020
Selection internationale, Cinéma du réel, Paris, March 2020
Berlinale Forum Expanded, Berlin International Film Festival, February 2020 [World premiere]


Cinéma du réel, Loridan-Ivens/CNAP Award, Special Mention

“For the extraordinary exploration of archives and the brilliant anthropological and political essay that this film constitutes. The jury also commends the radical approach to a cinematographic language capable of leading the spectator into a sensory immersion where the darkness invites us to discover the missing images.”
messages of thanks

Reviews, interviews, and other writings:

Expedition Content – Ernst Karel and Veronika Kusumaryati
— Paul Attard, In Review Online, 11 January 2022

Expedition Content
— Leo Goldsmith, Screen Slate, 7 January 2022

‘Expedition Content’ Review: Anthropological Maneuvers in the Dark
— Manohla Dargis, New York Times, 5 January 2022

Expedition Content and the Harvard Peabody Expedition to Netherlands New Guinea, 1961
— Veronika Kusumaryati and Ernst Karel, MAST: The Journal of Media Art and Theory, Vol 2 No 2, 2021
— Special Issue: Sound, Colonialism, and Power, edited by Lauren Rosati

Intimations of Session Number Six: an Interview with Ernst Karel and Veronika Kusumaryati
— Oliver Husain, Nang Magazine no. 8: LOUD MESS

Expedition Content: Michael Rockefeller kwam, observeerde en keerde nooit terug [in Dutch]
— Sander Hölsgens, De Filmkrant

Expedition Content, voci e suoni dalla spedizione Peabody [in Italian]
— Matteo Boscarol, il manifesto quotidiano comunista [pdf]

Ernst Karel and Veronica Kusumaryati: “Sound does not need added visual material to be interesting” [in Russian]
— Maya Kuzina,

Listening Against a Colonial Present: an Interview with Expedition Content‘s Ernst Karel and Veronika Kusumaryati
— Che R. Applewhaite, Open City Documentary Festival 2020: Focus

Sonic Archive Fever: Ernst Karel and Veronika Kusumaryati’s Expedition Content
— Stephanie Spray, Non-Fiction Journal, Issue 001 [download pdf]

Cinéma du réel 2020: Expedition content de Ernst Karel y Veronika Kusumaryati [in Spanish]
— Ivonne Sheen, desistfilm

Future Days: Berlinale 2020
— Leo Goldsmith, The Brooklyn Rail

Expedition Content: A journey of sound into West Papua
— Katrin Figge, the Jakarta Post [pdf]

Ernst Karel and Veronika Kusumaryati’s Expedition Content: An edited and condensed version of the Berlinale post-screening conversation between Kusumaryati, Karel, filmmaker Philip Scheffner, and curator Nicole Wolf
— Sonia Shechet Epstein, for Sloan Science & Film/Museum of the Moving Image

Distributed by Cinema Guild

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