Expedition Content
Ernst Karel and Veronika Kusumaryati
2020, DCP, 78 minutes

Distribution website (trailer, presskit, etc.): Cinema Guild


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 for cinema, 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.



Documenting Audibilities, Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis, the Netherlands, 13 May 2024
Taiwan International Ethnographic Film Festival, Hualien, 27 April 2024
Eye Filmmuseum, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 23 and 25 April 2024
Seeing and Not Seeing Seminar, Boston University, 3 April 2024
Multimodal Appreciation Workshop, Humboldt University, Berlin, 12 January 2024
Queen Mary Postcolonial Seminar, University of London, 8 December 2023
Taiwan International Ethnographic Film Festival, Taipei, 7 October 2023
Sewon Film Screening, Indonesian Arts Institute, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, 25 September 2023
Worlds We Are, curated by Patrick Campos, Museum of Contemporary Art and Design, Manila, Philippines, 14-16 September 2023
Radiophrenia, Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow, Scotland, 23 August 2023
What do crocodiles dream about?, Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova, Ljubljana, Slovenia, 4 July - 29 October 2023
Ambient Images: Stories of People and Sonic Experiences Told through Film, University of the Philippines Center for Ethnomusicology,
    3 July 2023
re:assemblage collectivee, Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre (CFMDC), Toronto, Canada, 28 June 2023
Bureau for Experimental Ethnography, University of Texas at Austin, 4 April 2023
WETfilm collective, Rotterdam, Netherlands, 24 Feb - 18 Mar 2023, Fridays and Saturdays at 14:00 and 16:00
Pacific Film Archive, Documentary Voices, Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive, 8 March 2023
Grand Illusion, Seattle, 20-25 January 2023
Curators' Choice 2022, Museum of the Moving Image, NYC, December 2022
ARKIPEL International Documentary and Experimental Film Festival, Jakarta, Indonesia, December 2022
Tembe ~ laboratorio sonoro, Bogota, Colombia, November 2022
Festival Film Dokumenter: Perspektif, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, November 2022
Mal Seh'n Kino, Frankfurt, Germany, November 2022
17th Istanbul Biennial, Pera Museum, Istanbul, Turkey, September-October 2022
Crossroads 2022, SF Cinematheque, San Francisco CA, August 2022
Imageless Films, Anthology Film Archives, NYC, May 2022
Harvard Film Archive, co-presented by the Peabody Museum, Cambridge Massachussetts, April 2022
Harpur Cinema, Binghamton University, New York, April 2022
DC Environmental Film Festival, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, March 2022
Campus Theater, Bucknell University, Lewisburg PA, February 1 2022
Screen/Society, Rubenstein Arts Center, Duke University, Durham NC, January 27 2022
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
AricaDoc, Chile-Peru-Bolivia, January 2021
Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV),
    Screening & webinar with the composers and Korneles Siep and Fridus Steijlen, 3 December 2020
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."

Reviews, interviews, and other writings:

Cinema Beyond Cinemas: the Best Films of 2022
— Jeffrey St. Clair, CounterPunch, 28 December 2022

Dramatika Auditori: Dimensi Sinematik Dokumenter Aural [in Indonesian]
— Manshur Zikri, Jurnal Footage, 24 December 2022

Expedition Content: Suara Melampaui Sinema [in Indonesian]
— Sazkia Noor Anggraini, Lembaran Antropologi, 2022:1(2), 234-238. https://doi.org/10.22146/la.6472

Best Films of 2022: Individual Ballots
— included on lists by Devika Girish, Leo Goldsmith, Dennis Lim, Julian Ross, and Gina Telaroli
— Film Comment, 15 December 2022

The Best Documentaries of 2022
— The Film Stage, 9 December 2022

Best Movies of 2022
— Manohla Dargis, New York Times, 6 December 2022 (and mentioned on Fox News [video])

Rethinking the Risk of Imperial Archive (program notes)
— Manshur Zikri, ARKIPEL, 22 November 2022

Top Ten: Lea Bertucci
— Lea Bertucci, ArtForum, April 2022 [photo], [video]

Expedition Content
— Brittany Gravely, Harvard Film Archive, April 2022

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 [pdf]

Review: Expedition Content Fascinatingly Deconstructs Anthropological Ideas
— Clayton Dillard, Slant Magazine, 3 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 [pdf]

Expedition Content, voci e suoni dalla spedizione Peabody [in Italian]
— Matteo Boscarol, il manifesto quotidiano comunista, 14 November 2020 [pdf]

7 Films to See at Art of the Real 2020
— Joshua Brunsting, CriterionCast, 13 November 2020

Ernst Karel and Veronica Kusumaryati: "Sound does not need added visual material to be interesting" [in Russian]
— Maya Kuzina, Colta.ru, 15 October 2020

Expedition Content: Michael Rockefeller kwam, observeerde en keerde nooit terug [in Dutch]
— Sander Hölsgens, De Filmkrant, 24 August 2020

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 [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


30-second excerpt:


ekarel [at] klingt.org
pravdavero [at] gmail.com