78 min., 2020
In 1961, filmmaker Robert Gardner organised the Harvard Peabody Expedition to Netherlands New Guinea (today West Papua). Funded by the Dutch colonial government and private donations, and consisting of several wealthy Americans 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 people. It resulted in Gardner’s influential film Dead Birds, two photo books, Peter Matthiessen’s book Under the Mountain Wall, and two ethnographic monographs. Michael Rockefeller, of the Standard Oil Rockefellers, was tasked with taking pictures and recording sound in and around the Hubula world. Expedition Content is an augmented sound work composed from 37 hours of tape, which documents 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.