Frontier runners between art and science

By Silvy Chakkalakal
10 Nov 2015 | Johann Jacobs Museum

he films of Maya Deren—the Haiti material in particular—were strongly influenced by a cultural-anthropological milieu that emerged in New York after the First World War. Scholars in this circle including Margaret Mead, Gregory Bateson, Ruth Benedict, and others experimented with a wide variety of media and materials and did not shy away from the arts. Mead shot films, composed photo studies and curated exhibitions, but also wrote poetry.

Silvy Chakkalakal’s presentation on occasion of the exhibition The Haitian Rushes by Maya Deren sketches this cultural-anthropological milieu and its various connections to the Harlem Renaissance, to Greenwich Village bohemia, and to artist colonies such as the Pita Maha artists’ cooperative in Bali. In doing so, Chakkalakal turns her attention to the cultural counter-models scholars devised in the places where they conducted their research. “Foreign culture” as a place of longing, as another reality and as a foil for comparison became an ongoing theme in public debates about American society.


Dr. Silvy Chakkalakal currently works at the Seminar für Kulturwissenschaft und Europäische Ethnologie, University of Basel. She does research in Medical Anthropology, Historical Anthropology and Cultural Anthropology.