Expedition Content

In 1961, filmmaker Robert Gardner organized 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 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.
by Ernst Karel, Veronika Kusumaryati USA 2020 English, Mid Grand Valley Dani, Dutch 78’ Colour & Black/White Documentary form


Directors Ernst Karel, Veronika Kusumaryati
Editing Ernst Karel, Veronika Kusumaryati
Producer Sensory Ethnography Lab

Produced by

Sensory Ethnography Lab

Ernst Karel

Ernst Karel, born in 1970 in Palo Alto, USA, works with sound, including electroacoustic music, experimental nonfiction sound works for multichannel installation and performance, and postproduction sound for nonfiction film, with an emphasis on observational cinema. His work often focuses on the practice of location recording and composing with unprocessed location recordings. In the Sensory Ethnography Lab at Harvard, Karel has collaborated with filmmakers and taught courses in reality-based audio. In fall 2019 he was the visiting fellow at the Center for Experimental Ethnography at the University of Pennsylvania.


2014 Single Stream; with Pawel Wojtasik and Toby Kim Lee, 23 min. 2015 Ah humanity!; with Verena Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor, 23 min. 2020 Expedition Content; with Veronika Kusumaryati, 78 min.

Bio- & filmography as of Berlinale 2020

Veronika Kusumaryati

Veronika Kusumaryati, born in 1980 in Bantul, Indonesia, is a political and media anthropologist working in West Papua. Her scholarship engages with the theories and historiography of colonialism, decolonization, and postcoloniality. She has worked as a curator and produced documentaries that have been screened at various film festivals. She received her bachelors degree from the Jakarta Institute of Arts majoring in Film and Media Studies. She is a member of the Sensory Ethnography Lab and currently a Harvard College Fellow in Anthropology.


2013 Iqra; 13 min. 2020 Expedition Content; with Ernst Karel, 78 min.

Bio- & filmography as of Berlinale 2020