Using art to study endangered indigenous rituals and music

Sebastien Robert is an master and researcher whose pattern presents a rare combination of visual and sound artwork, engineering, scientific and ethnographic experiment. A couple of years ago, he embarked on a research project announced You’re no Bird of Paradise which studies indigenous music and rites at risk of being disappearing.

auto credit v1 Sebastien Robert.( c) Unmmaped Films

Based on a collaborative and experimental approach, Robert’s projects attempt to translate reverberates and communions into tangible works of art that instantly reiterate the habits of the communities he assembles.

One of his projects wreaked the artist to La Araucania, a region of Chile where the rituals and alliances that Mapuche indigenous communities have woven for centuries with ecosystems are threatened by the compounded effects of climate change, property grabbing and the appropriation of natural resources. As the landscape disappears, so does Mapuche associated knowledge of the living world.

Robert’s lines of make The Kultrun of Canon del Blanco studies the influence of the Kultrun– a Mapuche ceremonial container- on the crystallisation of the Araucaria Araucana resin. The tree is not just a matter sacred in Mapuche culture, it is also a living relic and an endangered species. Robert’s project explores the possibilities of preserving the ancestral patterns of the container in the resin of the tree itself.

Mark IJzerman( visuals)& Sebastien Robert( voiced ), As Above, So Below, 2020

Robert also teamed up with media artist Mark IJzerman for As Above, So Below to explore La Araucania’s changing terrain. The audiovisual rendition concentrating on the corrosion of biodiversity and replacement of old-growth forest by water-hungry eucalyptus and pine orchards in the region which, again, happens at the expense of Mapuche communities.

auto traffic exchange Ly Mut’s Pleng Arak Ensemble, 2018. Portrait of Sum Pheng( suM pheng) vocals and drum. From the series The Forgotten Melodies of Pleng Arak

best free website traffic generator Ak, 2019.( c) Sebastien Robert. From The Forgotten Melodies of Pleng Arak

Another of Robert’s project probes Pleng Arak, an ancient music performed in Cambodia during shamanistic ceremonies. The traditional music is slowly disappearing due to the rise of modern remedy and to younger contemporaries’ lack of interest for ancient spiritual faith. In 2018, Robert met with one of the last bands of Pleng Arak. The musicians allowed him to record their repertoire, provided that it will never be sonically shared. Because it is exclusively play-act during sacred rituals, listening to this music outside of its original context would not only be inappropriate, it could potentially positioned the listener at risk.

The artist hence converted the recording’s sonograms into a coding organization based on the graphic rating of one of the Pleng Arak musical instruments. These abstracts were then impressed on tablets made of limestone and sandstone and stored under the coal mine alongside the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway.

I discovered Sebastien Robert’s work through SHAPE, a programme for inventive music and audiovisual artistry from Europe. I found the style he marries art with cultural heritage, ethnomusicology with discipline so moving, so ingenious that I contacted him for an interview 😛 TAGEND

Hi Sebastien! You have a background in business and fiscals, but you recently graduated with standings from the ArtScience( MA) at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague( KC ). Most of your work now explores endangered indigenous procedures and music. How did you get to investigate that topic when your background is not in ethnography?

The first reasons behind my research’ You’re no Bird of Paradise’ are rather personal. In 2013, following an exchange semester in Taipei( Taiwan) as part of my previous studies in the enterprises and fiscals, I decided to extend my stay in Asia by volunteering at an orphanage in Kathmandu( Nepal ). There, I had the opportunity to live one week amongst the indigenous community of the Langtang depression in the Himalaya. They were all gathered in the nearby monastery of Kyanjin Gompa for a traditional celebration that included hours-long mantras, war songs and yak catching. I always considered this experience as the beginnings of my imaginative pattern, as this is where I took my first photos and did my first battlefield records.

free traffic exchange Kyanjin Gompa, 2013.( c) Sebastien Robert

Originally from Tibet, these beings settled in this depression four hundred years ago and developed their own culture, songs and dialect, which were unique to this world. On 25 April 2015, a 7.8 importance shake shook Nepal, and a vast triumph fell on the Langtang village. An entire area of the mountainside came off, bringing with it giant boulders, much of the glacier and the frozen lake situated above it. It killed almost all the inhabitants. In the opening of a few seconds, the hamlet was wiped off the delineate, and the whole culture of that hollow faded. Although a few young people were in Kathmandu during the earthquake and subsisted, they now scarcity the artistic knowledge of their predecessors.

That day, I realised how fragile culture and its factors “couldve been”. That is where the idea of my study’ You’re no Bird of Paradise’ began and when I started to realise that there were more targets on earth with same gambles. UNESCO even publishes a roster each year announced, Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding, which indicators music, habits and practises currently disappearing due to technological, societal or ecological editions. It made me a few years to process this tragic event until I decided to apply to the ArtScience Master at the Royal Conservatoire( KC) of The Hague to further develop the theoretical linchpin of this research and gain field experience.

I’m curious about the claim of your research’ You’re no Bird of Paradise’. Where does the name come from?

The name’ You’re no Bird of Paradise’ is multi-layered. Originally, it comes from the designations’ You’re No Good’( 1967)&’ Bird Of Paradise’( 1965) from Terry Riley, one of my earliest inspirations, which appeared on an unofficial releasein 2017 that I came across while laying the foundation of my research. Both moves are some of the first plunderphonics cases ever composed- music made by taking existing audio recordings and altering them through videotape curves and cut-and-splice methods to make a brand-new form. A technique that’ asks notions of originality and name’ to repeat John Oswald, who coined the expression and that I always is set out in my din employment.

Additionally, the Bird Of Paradise is a fowl home that can be found in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, and eastern Australia. It is a well-known bird family as most genus have elaborate lek mating rituals and dances, whose likeness have been shown around the world, especially since hunting and habitat loss due to deforestation have reduced some species to endangered status. With that word, I wanted to highlight that when ecological systems is perturbed , is not simply animal species are warned but also indigenous communities that live harmoniously in it for thousands of years, along with their associated procedures and advanced knowledge of the natural world. Not the same attention goes to these less known communions, yet they are as important.

Last but not least, species from this fledgling family are known to show off to impress other members of their community, something I encountered now and then in the art world-wide and that I always perceived problematic. I wanted to contrast this by working on a profound, urgent and complex subject ground in the reality of today and the future, with care and dedication but without being ostentatious. My research goes beyond simple documentation, yet is not an ambitious ethnographic archiving projection of all the current disappearing communions various regions of the world. Hence the epithet,’ You’re no Bird of Paradise’.

Free Traffic Generator Mark IJzerman( visuals)& Sebastien Robert( clanged ), As Above, So Below. Photo: Pieter Kers

I read in a super interesting conversation “youve had” with Mark IJzerman that you had written a thesis about artistic grant in the field of sound art and how craftsmen working with different indigenous groups prestige themselves. Can you tell us something about your findings and resolutions?

In the first place, I think it is important to understand how this thesis came into existence. Working on such a delicate topic naturally raises questions, starting from myself. I will always remember that overwhelming feeling I had the nighttime before I recorded and photographed the musicians in Cambodia, wondering how I could slot myself as a French craftsman working in a former French province. Questions too emerged from the local communities. In Chile, those discussions I had with Milton Almonacid, a Mapuche activist, was a turning point for my investigate. He censured me for forgetting the epistemological diversification “of the worlds” and removing ingredients from a culture without understanding its accompanied importances and faiths. It made me a few cases weeks to process our challenging speech, but it became clear that I needed to question my positioning, both towards the subject of my research- in the way I deal with indigenous knowledge- and towards my aesthetic rule- at the border of audio skill, science and ethnomusicology.

Very soon, I realised that all of the information I could muster was either produced by students in their academic bubble analysing others’ slog or come more politically correct publicity interrogations. To avoid these difficulties, I adjusted myself the challenge of producing a different body of work by paying clang artists the seat to express their views. It made the form of a thesis, entitled’ Exploration or Appropriation? The arrange of contemporary resonate craftsmen towards Indigenous music’. One craftsman per continent, to present a diverse straddle of points of view and escape the repetition chamber of chiefly Western masters and intellectuals talking to each other. Throughout open-ended exchanges, we talked about the definition of cultural appropriation, the issue concerning re-contextualisation, the punishment pipeline between appropriation and respectful ingenuity, the differences between possible procedures, and the expansion of the working field. Without pretending to come to exhaustive resolutions, I presented a countryside of positions, in which I also slotted my work and questions.

The central see target from this thesis is that there is no one’ compensate’ direction or a magical formula when working with indigenous music, instruments or parishes. Every context is different, and therefore should be addressed accordingly. I would like to quote Rabih Beaini, one of the artists I talked to, who rightfully asked: “There are going to be places where you are not going to be welcome, but there are going to be places where you will be more than welcome.” The key is to be aware of your own position and awareness as an master, and pay attention to the context and the perspective of the community the project is about. There is no way one can grasp what is going on and what happens before going into the field.

free traffic to my website Projects: The Forgotten Melodies of Phleng Arak, Cambodia; The Kultrun of Canon del Blanco, Chile; The Taskiwin of High Atlas, Morocco. Image: Sebastien Robert

How did studies and research you did for your thesis steer the lane you approach and work with the musicians you encounter in various communities around the world now? How do you make sure you are not guilty yourself of manipulating, falsifying or suitable different cultures and world views of the communities you fulfill?

To the greatest extent possible- although in reality very difficult- I try to go there without any preconceived ideas on the outcome and let inspire myself by the people I congregate. I believe that this absence of agenda, and to some extent, this lack of promises, inserts a assemble of honest and humble talk, which is fundamental while working with indigenous communities. After all, it is all about beings, and we should never forget that. Communication is the key to creating a climate of trust. By communication, I mean taking into account all the wishes, minds and worldviews from everyone involved and making it from there.

Inevitably, this approach conjures new questions:

How can we get to know the perspective of the indigenous community we are working with? How can we understand their rules, wishes and creeds? I’m not only talking about language barricades here but different worldviews. And as my friend and environmental sociologist Darko Lagunas Leonquestions: “Is this even possible to achieve from our Western reality? ”

I’m not claiming that I have the answers to this question, but I believe there are two ways- that go hand in hand- that can help us to get in the right direction.

One way of thinking about this is to try to deconstruct our racial background: set aside our notions and dreams, separate ourselves from our dialectical idea, and decolonise our knowledge. Easier said than done, as conversation imposes a structure of possible ways of thinking, and this can easily lead to a sense of being out of control and out of place. This is not an easy process, but I believe that by simply being open and responsive, we may accept brand-new notions and understand new ideas. Another highway is to work in a squad. You need some translators to facilitate the conversation, but it is also interesting to work together with other artists, theoreticians and scientists, in the broad sense, coming from different backgrounds. A transdisciplinary collaboration can provide unique perspectives that, in return, offers read keys to open the complexity of these Non-Western worldviews.

free website traffic generator Ly Muts Pleng Arak Ensemble 2018.( c) Sebastien Robert

internet marketing Ak, 2019.( c) Sebastien Robert. From The Forgotten Melodies of Pleng Arak

Your campaigns have brought you( or will bring you) to La Araucania region of Chile, the High Atlas neighborhood in Morocco, in Cambodia, etc. How do you choose the regions where you will travel? Are there specific criteria and levels of urgency of music and habits that drive you to one community rather than another?

Up to now, I didn’t specific elect the destinations of my assignments but instead grab opportunities that has given rise through open calls and residencies. Some might think that this is a awfully opportunistic approaching, but in reality, it is a deliberate choice. In line with what I was excusing earlier, this strategy helps to go in the field with as few as is practicable hopes on the outcomes. Moreover, being an emerging artist, I do not yet have the means to finance myself such research field trips abroad, so residencies are a fantastic chance to fill that chink. Generally speaking, what interests me the most in the first place is the regional framework. That comes from my feeling for geopolitics from a young age, which I owe to my father who schooled me to’ glance under and beyond the maps’ to understand the complexities involved in a subject. Besides an often denigration of traditional legacy practices and a lack of belief from the younger generation, these music and practices are under threat due to intertwined technological, societal and environmental matters. They are typifies of the complexity of the world we occupy.

In Cambodia, the Peng Arak roughly evaporated during the Khmer Rouge period( 1975 -1 979) when music from past ages was forbidden and most of the musicians killed. Today, it’s the rise of modern prescription combined with the influence of Chinese medicine that peril the future of this healing ceremonial music. In Chile, ancestral Mapuche practices are under threat due to drastic converts caused by climate change, shore seizure and logging on the ecosystem in which they live harmoniously for thousands of years. In Morocco, the decline of the Taskiwin has its roots in the forced movement in the 1960 s of thousands of young Amazigh( Berber) parties to the quarries of northern France which depopulated the region of its musicians.

That being said, my approach is currently shifting as I am now experimenting the obscure threats put forward by the ecological transition on indigenous communities around the world to see if my upcoming activities could follow a common yarn. The construct of electrical vehicles, gale turbines and solar panels involves the extractions of rare earth metals and targeted materials, which have disastrous consequences in remote locations. Whether in Papua New Guinea, where deep-sea mining is threatening indigenous culture, in Ecuador, where the exploitation of balsa wood ravaged Waorani communities or in Finland, where miners hunting for metals threaten Sami reindeer herders‘ homeland, the patterns are numerous. If you mine deeper you realise that each of these communities has a specific and spiritual link with these materials, and some rituals are always are connected with them.

internet marketing ads Rite of Passage, 2020.( c) Charlotte Brand

The Kultrun of Canon del Blanco, Chilean Andes 38 deg3 2’44. 5”S | 71 deg4 0’44. 2”W, May 2019

Your work The Kultrun of Canon del Blancostudied the influence of the Kultrun- a Mapuche drum- on the crystallisation of the resin of a Mapuche sacred tree, the Araucaria Araucana. You carried the rhythms of the rhythm in the resin using a skill announced feelings crystallisation and documented their force on the establishment of the crystals. What are you learnt during that process?

I am still learning as this is an on-going project. All the theoretical fabric of such projects and the initial study have been developed during the Valley of the Possible residency programme in May 2019 in Chile. However, it made me more than a year to develop my installation Rite of Passage, which allows the drum’ reverberations to get into the crystals. The first things I earned from this process is equanimity and diligence. The sensitive crystallisation is a complex and, as its name recommends, insidious proficiency. Any slight change in temperature, humidity and tremor during the process can influence the structure and the texture of the quartzs. It took me a good deal of time to understand it, but it is also a gradual process in itself as it makes between 17 to 24 hours to grow one crystal. At some pitch, this project became too science-driven: trying to reach lab the terms and conditions of ventures with DIY equipment, spend eras researching different kinds of crystallisations, and indirectly altering my working studio into a 28,5 degC sauna, the ideal temperature for crystal expansion.

To counterbalance this, I likewise learned to follow my hunch instead of rigorously academic newspapers on scientific procedures. The challenge generally lies in the timing of such intrusive decisions as they will influence the rest of your projection. In my case, it was the moment I made the decision to button from the analysis of grown crystals to crystal growth. In other statements , not concentrated on the final quartzs but on how the quartz goes from its liquid to solid state: its liminal period. That is represented possible thanks to the installation I constructed, which documents every minute, via a camera on top of the crystallisation enclosure, the state of the crystal listening to the sound of the drum. The likeness captured are then gathered and speed up to create time-lapses where it is possible to see the quartz flourishing over duration.

So far, the results of this time and magnitude displacement in taste have been fascinating. Although too early to draw any opinion, it seems that the different lilts influence not only the structure and the quality of the quartzs but too the quicken of their increment. If this is true, it would mean that the resin of the Araucaria araucana tree can record the rhythms of the kultrun. I still need some time and cavity to experiment with this installation, which hasn’t been set up since my last showcase at FIBER Festivalin Amsterdam last-place September. In the ideal case, I would like to take it back to Chile, where this project was initiated, to finalise it and present its results back to the Mapuche community it is a matter of. Therefore I need to be even more patient.

The Kultrun of Canon del Blanco( Study of crystal growing ), 2020

Your bio states that your work has been exhibited in the famed Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway. Can you tell us about that?

This exhibition was the outcome of my first assignment The Forgotten Melodies of Pleng Arak, where I changed the recording’s sonograms of Pleng Arak, a healing Khmer music in a coding arrangement that I later impressed into a tablet. Each year, a selection of artworks that specifically spoke to the bio-cultural connections in agriculture and the links grains have to society, ecology and cultural activities, are lodged/ interred/ embed for infinity in the mountain alongside the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway.

The music of Pleng Arak is conducted in shamanic agricultural situations to call characters when there is no rain or crops are struck by a disease. I, hence, judged casting the tablet there would be the most lyrical highway to preserve a vestige of this disappearing music for heaven. However, I cannot tell much about the experience itself as I wasn’t physically there: the exhibition was too close to the birthdate of two daughters.

I finalised the tablet three days before being sent to Norway, which was a strange feeling to me, caused this was the first artwork I ever moved. Yet, a great reminder that I do not own anything I am on, only transferring on a meaning.

What drives your practice? An seriousnes to celebrate music and procedures that might disappear soon? A curiosity about other cultures? A desire to translate the intangible into definite artifacts?

My first reason is to raise awareness on the uniqueness of these century-old indigenous habits but likewise their insecurity. Their loss is a profound and urgent topic, which I think we should all be concerned about as it brings to light-colored the complexity and interconnectedness “of the worlds” we colonize. Through my work, I am interested in finding ways to pay tribute to these communions and perpetuate some of their characteristics without the pretentious idea that I will’ save’ them or solve the regional issues that are at hand. It is more about creating a dialogue between different standpoints and sought for prospects to create an understanding of the connection between indigenous knowledge and the landscape.

That leads to my second motivation: to highlight the epistemological diversity of our world. This phase particularly interests tome as it constantly derives through my arena event. Take, for example, my last assignment in Chile. It is deeply ground in the Mapuche worldview that doesn’t separate sort and cultural activities as we do in the West. This lack of dialectic remember is rather hard to understand from our western actuality as the majority of them linkages are often imperceivable, invisible or inaudible. Besides a paradigm alteration, engineering is necessary to expose the unknown and generating different scales to our perception.

And that draws me to my last-place motivating: to explore alternative’ recording’ mediums. To a certain extent, the simple answer to the loss of indigenous rites is necessary to’ capture’ them in audio or video format for conservation purposes. Yet, this has already been done in the past, and the current storage media are too fragile: vinyl, tapes and digital registers have a limited lifespan. On surface of that, they are standardised mediums, procreated from our Western perspective. In experimenting with long-lasting information that comprise a symbolic home in the habits of local communities I congregate( sandstone in Cambodia, Araucaria araucana resin in Chile ), I aim to find ways to move the sonic characteristic into visual uses that taken into account their hopes, creeds and worldviews.

Your work is grounded in field work and personal meetings so how has your rehearse adapted to the pandemic?

Besides the residency in Morocco planned in April 2020 postponed to 2021, my tradition didn’t change much during the first six months of the pandemic, as I works on my graduation section, Rite of Passage. Because all my side projects came offset, I suddenly had the time and infinite to focus on this installation. To a certain extent, I suppose the pandemic acted in my favor. After my graduation in September, and perhaps a bit naively, I reckoned the situation would rapidly ease off and that I would soon be able to go back into the field. But I was quickly disillusioned. The recent postponement of the residency in Morocco to 2022 manufactured me realise that the situation was still far from being solved. So, like many masters around me, I started to think about my artistic rehearsal more locally. By researching music and rites from where I initially come from( France) in my immediate encloses( The Netherlands ).

I first became interested in the bagpipes, a normal instrument from Brittany that I regularly listened to while growing up in Nantes. I have always felt a strong emotion when listening to this transcendental instrument. Perhaps listening to the work of Yoshi Wada would help to understand what I make. I was surprised to learn that this instrument has been dallied for centuries in North africa, Anatolia and the Caucasus before result its nature to Europe, which spotlit again how our view is deeply influenced by our cultural and historical background. Although that research did not lead directly to a new job more, I do not exclude working with this beautiful instrument in the future.

In parallel, I have been invited by the festival Into The Great Wide Open to do some investigate on Vlieland, an island in the Wadden Sea in the north of The Netherlands. What started as an investigation into the sonic scenery of the island, through underwater and face transcriptions, transformed into experimentation with weatherfax, which are weather maps transmitted through radio waves. This disappearing and obsolete skill utilized since the 1940 s to communicate with sends and isolated residences takes revelation from the work of Dutch cartographer and weatherman Nicolas Kruik( 1678 -1 754 ). Born in Vlieland, he was the first to present weather data graphically, so to some extent, this proficiency originated from that island. Although it’s too early to say which counseling this project will take in the coming months, I am grateful for this opportunity to continue my study during the pandemic.

Thank you Sebastien!

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