Christoph Keller: Poster-Reader to the installation Expedition Bus and Shaman Travel, 2002

Christoph Keller: Expedition-Bus and Shaman-Travel, 2002

VW-camper, HD-video, double projection on the windscreen of a mirrored camper van, 20 min; installation researching the parallels between ethnography and shamanism using scientific film-footage from the 50s and 60s.

The installation Expedition-Bus and Shaman-Travel examines a parallel between the shamanic and the ethnographic journey. Mircea Eliade describes shamanism as the basic form of every human culture (English edition: Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1964) and the shamanic journey as its central element. Stimulated by trance or ritual, the shaman embarks on an imaginary journey to the mythic world of the gods, to metaphysical places inaccessible to the community as a whole. He returns with an image or a parable, a message from the gods as it were, that provides instructions on the formation or reformation of the community.

The installation is based on the assumption that the ethnographer in Western science – without being conscious of it – does something very similar for our society: he travels to distant corners of the world and reports on occurrences beyond our civilization upon his return. This image of the “other” decisively contributes to the formation if the mythic “we” as Western “civilization.”

The installation consists of a mirrored Volkswagen Type 2 Transporter, a camping van of the 1960s. The mirroring points to the reversal of the view that occurred when the ethnographer encountered foreign cultures as a seemingly objective observer. The viewer himself is simultaneously reflected in it. Excerpts from scientific ethnographic films from the 1950s and 1960s documenting the activities of shamans during divinations, sacrificial ceremonies and trance rituals are projected as double projections from the inside onto the windshield of the van.

Each of the two halves of the double projection shows an excerpt from the same film lasting for about one minute. Subtle time shifts were worked into the film material that circumvent the didactic logic and narration of the original educational film. In a certain sense, the viewer who enters the mythic vehicle of the expedition bus and watches the films after taking a seat becomes the third traveler of the installation alongside the ethnographic and the shamanic travellers.

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