Ceremonies for Public Space #3

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In this concluding discussion held on the 24th of November, we considered what kind of public ceremonies could serve to advance the project on Reconciliation Architecture : we wanted to understand what kinds of alternative ceremonies were possible. The epistemological origins of ceremony can possibly be traced to the Etruscan origins, ( a reference to the ancient rites performed by the Etruscan pontiffs at Caere, near Rome. [known today as Cerveteri] http://www.dictionary.com). The Etruscans, especially if one gives credibility to the imaginative literary reconstructions by D.H. Lawrence, would have invented through assimilation of contemporary colonial Greek rituals, the colourfully agonistic events organised to mark funerals and other sacred events.

While ceremonies today  often carry associations with totalitarian mass rallies and global sports spectaculars, their critical potential remains largely untapped.  How do ceremonies act to glue  together society with the  concrete world, its architecture, monuments, landmarks and  effigies?  … and finally how do we imagine or collectively assemble ritualistic actions that can offer alternative readings, or alternative significance to existing built contexts?

We began by unpacking the modern ceremony itself, its repetitive and “functional” narratives… and its role in giving “significance” to public objects, landmarks, monuments.  I put together a playlist featuring a number of experimental films for future viewing: Superstudio’s “Ceremony” 1972, which can be viewed on line courtesy of Architecture Player:  http://www.architectureplayer.com/strips/the-filmic-emergence-of-new-behaviors-out-of-the-supersurface (commissioned for the 1973 Triennale Design exhibition in Milan)

Ettore Sottsass Jr.’s commissioned grey modular furniture elements for the Italy New Domestic Landscape exhibition at MoMA which can be viewed on line courtesy of Massimo Magri’s video archive: http://www.massimomagri.it/videovisor.php?pg=industriali&lk=49744830

As well as Ugo La Pietra’s “Re-appropriation of the the City” 1977, made for the Centres Georges Pompidou, and available through the artist’s archive: https://vimeo.com/11457755 .

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One thought on “Ceremonies for Public Space #3

  1. In this link there is a very special ceremony and ritual filmed by ethnofiction documentarist Jean Rouch in 1955 – The Mad Masters

    Les maîtres fous (The Mad Masters – 1955) is a short film directed by Jean Rouch, a well-known French film director and ethnologist. It is a docufiction, his first ethnofiction, a genre he is considered to have created.

    The subject of the film was the Hauka movement. The Hauka movement consisted of mimicry and dancing to become possessed by British Colonial administrators. The participants performed the same elaborate military ceremonies of their colonial occupiers, but in more of a trance than true recreation.

    The Hauka movement, according to some anthropologists was a form of resistance that began in Niger, but spread to other parts of Africa. According to some anthropologists, this pageant, though historic, was largely done to mock their authority by stealing their powers. Hauka members were not trying to emulate Europeans, but were trying to extract their life force – something “entirely African”.

    This stance has been heavily criticized by anthropologist James G. Ferguson who finds this imitation not about importing colonialism into indigenous culture, but more a way to gain rights and status in the colonial society. The adoption of European customs was not so much a form of resistance, but to be “respected by the Europeans.”

    Les maîtres fous offended both colonial authorities and African students alike. Indeed, the film was so controversial that it was banned first in Niger, and then in British territories including Ghana. The film was considered offensive to colonial authorities because of the Africans’ blatant attempts to mimic and mock the “white oppressors”. On the other hand, African students, teachers, and directors found the film to perpetrate an “exotic racism” of the African people.

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