MUSEUM ON THE COUCH Summer Term 2016

Reflexive Interventions in Anthropology

8 Installations 8 Theoretical Questions | 8 Important Insights


The exhibition shows a collaboration between the GRASSI Museum for Anthropology and the Institute for Anthropology at the University of Leipzig. It offers room for experimental works within the anthropological museum to search for practical resolutions and present them to the visitors of the museum. It seeks to create a place for anthropological theory and practice to meet each other.

The exhibition is can be seen in the GRASSI Museum für Völkerkunde until 30 September 2016.


1 LISTENING BAR - languages between minds, times and spaces

Language is an important element of every human community. Even if I cannot understand a strange language, I can listen to it, feel the effects of rhythm, melody and color of sound. Language is able to transmit emotions and it makes social interactions more real. You can feel language through your senses without knowing the significance of every single word. Language shadows over spaces and times. It lives through constants, accents and changes. This is an invitation to listen and to feel and to think about - what strange sounds like and what strange could mean...
This collage of languages contacts the concept of strange. On the one hand, this collage refers to the former "fremd"- exhibition. On the other hand it was inspired by the steady interaction with strangeness whether in the museum, in research or also in daily life. Collective ideas, which are encountered in and outside the museum's walls, are part of this sound experiment. Inspired by the seemingly speechless objects and the silence in the museum, this is an attempt to experience language. It is an invitation to deeply listen with or without understanding.


2 The Grassi Museum. And beyond?

Open your eyes and you will discover ethnographic objects all around the city: In the mall, in the city center and in the suburbs. So why go to a museum, if one could eat Indian food, listen to Indian music and see Indian objects also in a restaurant? But what is the difference between a restaurant and an ethnographic museum? Who shows ethnographic objects why and in which way? How is „India" constructed in the museum and in the restaurant? What is authenticity? And who has the legitimation to show „culture"?


3 Eisenbahnstraße. A line is always BETWEEN two points.

The video installation presents the phenomenon of the Eisenbahnstraße (Leipzig) and displays the route between Friedrich-List-Platz and Torgauer Platz. The video, combined with the map draws a likeness to the multifarious life of the Eisenbahnstraße. Various social groups and their occupational elds pile up along the shop windows. A bit of lived urbanity.
Urbanity. The fusion of living, working and relaxation. The daily life happens in the public as well as in the private life. The results of social processes are readable. The requirement for divergent behaviors is the anonymity. The city is a place of the confused unknown and the meeting with others, but therein lies the chance of gaining new experiences. The rigid tram line is the counterpart of the bubbly street ́s character. The video with the cartographic material provokes emotions and thoughts.


4 Reflective Observation

The aim of this installation is to make the visitor feel the discomfort of being observed in his/her intimacy, at home, with familiar objects. The installation questions the ethic of an ethnological exhibition which reveals the daily life of the studied populations through intimate objects.
The installation reverses the roles: The visitor takes a seat, in turn, behind the showcase. He/She becomes a piece of the exhibition, an object of observation among others. The visitor becomes the exotic, the stranger facing his observers. The visitor can ask him/herself if the objects surrounding him/her reveal his/her daily life; his/her culture.
Please take a seat.


5 Yo no sé mañana (Tomorrow I don't know). Visit on a Tourism Fair

The photographs are showing how places are staged at another place. The view is directed to the established relations between the photographic images and the objects within the display as well as to the dependencies of perspective and how the display reaches out of itself to its surrounding. In transferring these images into the Museum für Völkerkunde the cultural practice of representing other worlds is confronted with the one inside the space of this museum.
At the tourism fair the often appearing images of nature are showing a place of longing for town people. In the museum a distinctive nature is related to a distinctive culture. So the ‚other' to the western self, freezed into a state of nature, is created. How is this related to one's own imaginations? The produced differences are bound to hierarchies in validation and power asymmetries. These representations do not naturally come from the world out there. Rather, they are linked to the big divides culture/nature european/non european modern/non modern in which the „Völkerkundemuseum" in general stems from. This is also visible in the spatial separation of the museum itself, the GRASSI is split into the Museum für Völkerkunde and the Museum für Angewandte Kunst.



6 Decorporation

Life casts are visual manifestations of display narratives that produce and highlight phenotypic differences, physical stereotypes of "the other" that help to create and solidify clichés. The body serves to illustrate (the illusion of) culture. It is an embodiment of an existing concept or stereotype of culture, that replaces the actual "culture" it is based upon. Socio-cultural interpretations of that body concept are manipulable especially when intertwined with cultural concepts. Associations made by visitors are potentially different from the intended narrative. The museum as an institution has the authority to dispose of and to interpret these exact narratives; a fact that it does not seem to be aware of.
Bodies do not speak for themselves but are interpreted according to their context of display. Removing the body also removes the illusion of skin(-colour) or facial expression and leads to a deconstruction of the view. The view that can no longer project some bodily characteristics as different or other.


7 The Own in the Foreign - The Foreign in the Own

Only because you are different in relation to me is it possible to experience myself as I am. That means that we need differences to create identity and that these differences are enriching. The subject of anthropology always asks from new again for the limits of translatability of different perspectives, experiences and languages. How far it is possible to translate one reality for another one? How is the "own" culture characterized and how is it possible to get an image of myself from the outside?
By coming closer to specific emotion-terms from all over the world and by going a distance through caricature pictures from the own culture I want to highlight how many things humans have in common. The search for the « foreigner » starts and ends in our self.


8 Sounds of the Tortilla-Makers

‚But what of the ethnographic ear?' (Veit Erlmann 2004)
In this ethnographic museum there are firstly material objects which spark imaginations of, and associations between, unknown situations and contexts. The authorless texts show a possible contextualization of objects. Due to the singularity of the text and the anonymity of the author, the texts appear to be dominant mouthpieces of one knowledge position. They can be interpreted as a positivist and omniscient truth.
What would the museum be without material objects and explanatory texts?
How do you give insights into research situations with a specific sound and be both the center of an ethnographic approach and the center of a museum display? What can you listen to in a sound installation about a particular object? What aspects of a research situation remain unheard? What changes if the researcher changes his/her recording position? 

Simultaneity. Dialogue. Position. Closeness. Distance. Intimacy?


Annette Veit
 Tel + 49 341 97 37 220
Fax + 49 341 97 37 229
Office Hours:
10 am - 11 am
1 pm - 2 pm


Ursula Rao
 +49 341 97 37 221
Institut für Ethnologie
Schillerstraße 6
04109 Leipzig