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Anthropology projects bring ritual to life

Students have been working on a series of interactive web documentaries that go beyond what traditional anthropology is

There is often a bias in favour of written material in academia. But students at the Department of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen, have chosen to do something else.

They have created a series of audio-visual representations, or interactive documentaries called Ritual Rhythms, which are 11 sub-projects created by participants in the 2014 ‘Visual Anthropology in Practice’ course. They document the daily rituals and rhythms of daily life.

”Although we choose what to film and what stories to tell, I think visual media can activate a greater range of interpretation, as well as reach a broader audience, and that’s important if we want to break out of the academic bubble,” says Bibiana Baxevanos, who participated in the course, and created the video called ‘A Drag Transformation’, below.

Check out the full WebDoc project Ritual Rhythms here (Be patient, it takes time to load)..

Click and see one of the videos ‘A Drag Transformation’ below, which simply follows a guy getting ready to go out on the town, all ‘dressed’ up.

[video: width:432 height:324 align:center]

Transcending borders

WebDoc is a contemporary form of interactive and/or multimedia documentary, available via the Internet, which differs from more traditional forms of film through its use of a large range of multimedia tools.

This WebDoc project uses ”concepts of Ritual and Rhythm to investigate how various forms of daily life may be analysed as ritual events, how they order, unite or transform people, places and objects, installing particular social aesthetics that make them familiar to some and obscure to others,” says Perle Møhl, a filmmaker and research assistant who is the course instructor.

According to Perle Møhl, this type of anthropological work has the ability to ”transcend the borders of singular media and the limits of the expressible,” and, in this way, capture aspects of daily life, which often ”elude the attention of a wordy anthropology.”

Room for creativity and interpretation

Students participating in ‘Visual Anthropology in Practice’ have been working with this platform throughout 2014, performing analysis and documenting forms of ritual and rhythm, using camera, microphone, photography, and other forms of interactive media.

Anthropology student Bibiana Baxevanos, who participated in the course, says that she found “visual media to have a greater communicative power than written media, especially when considering the academic writing we are used to producing.”

The course gave her the opportunity to use more of her senses, Bibiana says. It allowed her to work with material more creatively and tangibly than she may otherwise throughout the rest of her education. According to Bibiana, it transcends the traditional realm of academic anthropology.

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