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Message posted on 13/01/2018

Highland Flotsam - A Call for Stuff for an Exhibition Project on Global Connections

Dear members of the Visual Anthropology Network,

we warmly invite you to distribute our Call for Stuff for an Exhibition Project on Global Connections called Highland Flotsam.

Deadline: 15 February 2018

Highland Flotsam A Call for Stuff for an Exhibition Project on Global Connections

Rather than a Call for Papers, this is a Call for Stuff: we invite submissions for an upcoming exhibition project entitled “Highland Flotsam“. The aim of this exhibition, curated by Marlen Elders and Martin Saxer, is to shed light on seemingly remote mountain areas around the globe.

Edwin Ardener once wrote that remote areas are full of strangers and innovators, full of rubbish and ruins of the past. And, of course, they are in constant connection with the outside world (Ardener 2012). As people move in, move out, and move through, they leave things and stories behind. The Highland Flotsam project seeks to tap into these material sediments and gather them for an exhibition, scheduled for 2019 in Munich, Germany.

Imagine, for example, the following arrangement: a pair of used canvas shoes in front of a large-format print of a construction site somewhere in the highlands of China. The "liberation shoe”, as they are called, have been instrumental in building the contemporary People’s Republic of China. Millions are produced monthly, everybody knows them, and many have owned several pairs. The good ones last for a season, at most, before ending up as flotsam somewhere along the road.

Other flotsam comes to mind: scrap metal scavenged from abandoned factories in Kyrgyzstan; oil barrels used as prayer wheels in Ladakh; empty batteries no longer illuminating the night; blue Chinese tin roofing, leaving tidemarks throughout the Himalayas; the plethora of seasoned tires unfit for further travel on the roads of the world; or shipping containers reused for a variety of purposes at the end of their journeys.

What we seek to tell – and what we believe is important to tell – is not the story of globalisation’s waste left behind. What we want to render visible, and palpable, are the material traces of global connections and the ways flotsam acquires afterlives. We thereby see this exhibition project as a fleeting yet methodological intervention: we seek to redirect things that became flotsam to a temporary assemblage of narrative material in an exhibition setting. After the exhibition has taken place, we plan to set them free again, sending them on unknown onward journeys. What will remain are memories, perhaps a smile or two about such unexpected diversions, and a documentation of the project in the form of an exhibition catalogue.

With this Call for Stuff, we invite you to participate in the project. We are looking for things and their stories that provide glimpses into this process of mundane yet cosmopolitan sedimentation. Rather than an abstract for a paper, we invite ideas for exhibits. At this stage, we need the following:

• A short description of the potential exhibit, including its specification (size, weight and transportability, etc.)

• Photos of the thing and its surroundings (if available)

• A brief note on its background: where have you found the thing in question? What were the circumstances of its discovery or acquisition? Do you know something about its biography and journey? To whom may it have belonged? And what is the larger story the thing renders visible?

We invite you to submit your ideas by 15 February to m.elders@campus.lmu.de . We will take stock of potential exhibits, put them in relation to each other, select, and get back to you regarding logistics and practicalities of shipping items to Germany.

This exhibition project comes out of the ERC Starting Grant project "Remoteness & Connectivity: Highland Asia in the World”. Martin Saxer is the research group leader of the project. He has a background in theatre, visual arts, and documentary film. He was a junior lecturer at the Ethnographic Museum of Zurich University and recently worked on an exhibition at the Rubin Museum of Arts, New York. Marlen Elders is an anthropologist and member of the project. She has carried out research on concepts of aesthetics and sensory perception to explore new forms of presentation. Recently she worked on an exhibition on Munich’s environmental (hi)stories at LMU Munich.

For more information have a look at our webpage: http://www.highlandasia.net/projects/highlandflotsam.html

We look forward to your submissions and would be grateful if you could circulate it among your various networks.

Many thanks and best wishes,

Martin Saxer and Marlen Elders

Marlen Elders Project Assistant, ERC Project Highland Asia Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology www.highlandasia.net

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