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Sensory Ethnography Lab: Experiments with Cinema

Courtesy of The Cinema Guild.


Harvard Art Museums, 32 Quincy Street
Cambridge MA

This series highlights contemporary work produced at Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab (SEL) exploring the intersection of cinema and anthropology. Directed by Lucien Castaing-Taylor and managed by Ernst Karel, the lab provides an academic context for the development of creative works that test and respond to the traditions of documentary film. Anthropologists and artists who conduct research at the SEL investigate processes of realism and representation, expanding the potential of visual and acoustic media to represent indigeneity and alterity, lived experience and cultural difference, around the world.
The depictions of landscape and time presented in this series resonate with those found in the Harvard Art Museums’ special exhibition Everywhen: The Eternal Present in Indigenous Art from Australia (February 5–September 18, 2016) and in Ben Rivers’s nine-channel installation The Shape of Things (July 1–October 25, 2016), commissioned as a project for the museums’ Lightbox Gallery, on Level 5. Each of these projects challenges our relationship to the past, revealing new strategies for encountering ancestral and natural worlds.

Join us for weekly Sunday programs during the run of the series.

About today’s film:
People’s Park (2012)
78 min.; color; Sichuanese and Mandarin Chinese

A mesmerizing, one-of-a-kind window into modern China, People’s Park is an exhilarating single-shot documentary that immerses viewers in an unbroken journey through a famous urban park in Chengdu, Sichuan Province.

The film, by Libbie D. Cohn and J. P. Sniadecki, explores the dozens of moods, rhythms, and pockets of performance coexisting within the park’s prismatic social space, capturing waltzing couples, mighty sycamores, karaoke singers, and buzzing cicadas.

A sensory meditation on cinematic time and space, People’s Park offers a fresh gaze at public interaction, leisure, and self-expression in today’s China (

Co-directors: Libbie D. Cohn and J. P. Sniadecki
Camera, sound, editing: Libbie D. Cohn and J. P. Sniadecki
Production assistant: Ouyang Xiaodong
Post-production image: Julien Bisschop
Post-production sound mixer: Ernst Karel

The screening will be held in Menschel Hall, Lower Level.

Co-director Libbie Cohn will offer introductory remarks and will participate in a conversation with the audience after the film.

Free admission

Support for this program is provided by the Richard L. Menschel Endowment Fund. Modern and contemporary art programs at the Harvard Art Museums are made possible in part by generous support from the Emily Rauh Pulitzer and Joseph Pulitzer, Jr., Fund for Modern and Contemporary Art.

Lead support for Everywhen: The Eternal Present in Indigenous Art from Australia and related research has been provided by the Harvard Committee on Australian Studies. The exhibition is supported by the Australian Government through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Australian Consulate-General, New York.