Wandering Through Other Worlds Talking with the Spirits
Centennial Retracing of the Expedition Route of anthropologist Maria A.Czaplicka in the Siberian Arctic: A Journey through Art, Cognitive Science and Anthropology.
This summer 2019, with the help of TORCH’s Heritage Seed Grant, Anya Gleizer a Ruskin School of Art postgraduate, Jaanika Vider an Oxford postdoctoral researcher and Pablo Fernandez Velasco, a cognitive science doctoral student at UCL, undertook an expedition to the Siberian arctic in the footsteps of the famed 1914 expedition of Maria Czaplicka. The goal of this adventure was to create a partnership between a native Evenki institution (the Tura museum) and the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, where Christopher Morton, the supervisor of this project, is Head of Research. This project used performance-art-based approaches and Virtual Reality technology to create a bridge between these worlds, rectify historic tensions created by the problematic methodologies of the original Czaplicka expedition, share the museum’s collections, create new learning environments for museum visitors, and, most importantly, introduce Evenki voices and perspectives into the PRM Siberia exhibit.
As part of this project Gleizer worked with elders and children in remote Evenki communities and reindeer brigades, introducing them to VR film technology so that they could use it to share their stories to the museum. In the settlement of Chirinda, with the help of local hunters, the team was able to trace the location of the shaman grave site from which Czaplicka had taken two “ongon” or animal shaped spirit figurines, still held in the museum archives. An elder from the community, Baba Valentina Oëgir shared her views on how best to treat the sensitive disturbance created by the displacement of these ongon. The team is now back in Oxford, working with the PRM to invite an Evenki delegation to rethink the curation of the Siberia exhibit, to integrate VR and new technologies into the museum’s exhibition strategy and to continue integrating contemporary art strategies into communicating the many tangled histories on display.
Anya Gleizer, Expedition Leader, Ruskin School of Art, University of Oxford
Jaanika Vider, University of Oxford
Pablo Fernandez Velasco, University College London
Dates: July 16 - August 30
Location: Evenkia, Central Siberia, Russian Federation