The Archaeological Lens
Anthropologist Shannon Lee Dawdy (University of Chiago) and filmmaker Daniel Zox embark on a project whose subject matter concerns rapidly changing death practices in the US, particularly as regards disposition of the body and the creation of memorial objects. The aesthetic challenge is to use the moving picture medium with an archaeological eye as they explore how film might be used as a means to excavate the contemporary – creating visual field notes of material practices.
Shannon Lee Dawdy
Shannon Lee Dawdy is an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago. Her work combines archaeological, archival, and ethnographic methods, as exemplified by her newly published book Patina: A Profane Archaeology (Spring 2016, U of C Press), based on archaeology and interviews conducted with survivors of Hurricane Katrina. While past projects have focused on colonialism and informal economies, newer work has moved towards object ontologies and temporality. Prior to meeting Zox, Dawdy had planned to do a study on American death that might be classified within the emerging field of the “archaeology of the contemporary.” Normally, the archaeological record, formed through loss and decay, filters out a tremendous amount of information, leaving just traces. But the living, contemporary material world is total and cacophonous, presenting a methodological problem. How can we filter the visual input to make coherent social observations? Does the film medium offer methods to solve this problem? More info here.
Daniel Zox is an independent filmmaker whose work has focused on the physical relationship between bodies in space and the camera. Zox has served as Filmmaker in Residence and Adjunct Faculty at Northwestern University. He has produced music video, short film, and documentary works that have screened at the United Nations for International Day of the Girl, film festivals (South by Southwest, Outfest, Athens International Film and Video), and been nationally broadcast on MTV. His work finds ways to disrupt the viewer's effort to define a screen character’s behavior. How can unconventional behavior in the real world appear typical on screen? How can the viewer stay engaged with a subject when the story is fragmented? Zox’s earlier collaboration with artist Jeanne Dunning (Playing Catch, 2009) explored how a video could be simultaneously an object moving, and a document of the object moving. This concern carries into the proposed collaboration: How should the camera be positioned and move to reflect an archaeological point of view? More info here.