ephemeropteræ 2014/02

The Director of Frankfurt’s Weltkulturen Museum, Clementine Deliss, is known for her creation of dialogues to oppose the canonical ideas of cultural identity and ethnicity, opening new perspectives and transforming perceptions. Together with ethnologist and filmmaker Michael Oppitz, an expert on shamanism and oral traditions, these two speakers with highly unconventional approaches towards anthropology and ethnography meet on stage.
Clementine DelissCollecting life’s unknowns
Collections have an anthropomorphic, fetishist feel to them. They signify relations between things and ideas, between the inheritance of meaning and its erasure over time. If the objects in ethnographic museums were once auratic they quickly become forgotten and acquire anachronism. How does one re-identify and re-activate the objects and give them new significance? What might a contemporary ethnographic collection look like? Has the acquisition of life’s unknowns shifted from the earlier speculative and occult interests of ethnographers and their museums to contemporary art? Clémentine Deliss proposes the idea of an interdisciplinary museum-university, vivid in dialogue and eclectic encounters between dormant ritual objects whose context, function and production is unknown and works of contemporary art. This sort of confrontation, present in the experimental and innovative practice at Deliss’ Weltkulturen Museum, endorses the potentiality of art works and objects to initiate non-linear re-identifications and activations of meaning and understanding. It brings to light the capacity of artistic practice to transform perception and transcend the constraints of everyday reality by means of experiences that are situated in contemporary culture and oppose deadlocked determinations of cultural identity. Thsi destabilising experience which transports potentiality creates a web of resonance that links it to the laboratory set up in Carsten Höller’s LEBEN – either intentionally or by chance. 

CLEMENTINE DELISS (Born 1960 in London, where she lives and works), currently director of the Weltkulturen Museum Frankfurt, is a considerable name in the fields of anthropology and curating. She holds a PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. From 1992 to 1995 she was artistic director of africa95, a contemporary arts festival coordinated with the Royal Academy of Arts, London. In 1995, she curated the ground-breaking exhibition Seven Stories about Modern Art in Africa at the White-chapel Gallery, London. Deliss is the founder of the publication Metronome and the International Research Project titled Future Academy based in Edinburgh with research cells in Senegal, India, Europe, Australia, USA, and Japan. Her focus now primarily rests in projects addressing post-colonial ties to art and curatorial practice.
Michael OppitzForm and Flow in Oral Tradition
Michael Oppitz with sensitivity and attention retraces oral traditions and forms of communication of mountain people living in the Himalaya. A striking example is his recent publication Morphologie der Schamanentrommel (2013), in which he describes the diversity of details of a drum that is used in shamanistic rituals in the various villages throughout Northern Asia. All of them, though, are made in the same physical basic shape. Looking to reveal unknown rules and understandings in a fascinating network of oral communications that transgresses countries and mountain chains, Oppitz explores the myths and narratives of these oral cultures. His contribution to Ephemeropteræ, likewise unravels the complex structures and flows of oral traditions, that may oscillate between stable forms and mobile messages. This, to Oppitz, is an impression one gets, if one studies Himalayan faith healers over a longer period of time. Craftsmen of the spoken word – as singers, bards and skilled performers – they cast their verbal art in ancient forms. These forms, handed down from generation to generation and from place to place in a long chain of transmissions seem to hold some liberties though: each master of the chanted word follows his own style and thereby keeps the tradition in permanent flow. 

MICHAEL OPPITZ (Born 1942 in Arnsdorf, now living in Berlin) is a recipient of a Doctorate degree from the University of Cologne. He undertook extensive and well-documented fieldwork in Nepal, allowing him to write two publications. Known primarily for his vivid and detailed ethnographic film works, such as Schamanen im Blinden Land (1978-80), Oppitz is considered a leading expert on the understanding and significance of shamanism, with particular focus of the phenomenon’s presence in Nepal and the Himalayas. He was the former director of the Völkerkundemuseums in Zurich and is also professor emmeritus at Universität Zurich.
July 11, 2014 from 7 PM
Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary 
TBA21–Augarten, Scherzergasse 1A, 1020 Vienna, Austria
Free admission
supported by
Wiener Städtische Versicherungsverein