Anthropology of the Moving Image

A new book looks at movie landscapes: Arnd Schneider, Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Oslo has published widely on contemporary art and anthropology. His latest book, Expanded Visions: A New Anthropology of the Moving Image, brings together a set of essays on anthropology, ethnography and film.

One of the essays, titled “An Anthropology of Abandon,” discusses experimental filmmaker and photographer Cyrill Lachauer’s “narrative landscapes” and travels through the American West. The essay opens with the desert, a tabula rasa on which the imagination can be projected. According to philosopher Jean Baudrillard, the desert is fascinating because of its lack of depth, “an outer hyperspace, with no origin, no reference points.” Cities like Las Vegas seem to rise out of nothing. Ghost towns persist in the desert as remnants of past utopias. Schneider likens these ghost towns to the Western movie sets of Almería, though “unlike the ghost cities they were fake all along.” Today, tourists replay fantasies from their own movie memories, “fantasies of the seen, not of the experienced.”

“What they all share is a sense of abandon: the desert in its primordial meaning of “left waste,” the ghost cities of their former activities, and the “ghost-sets” of their original fantasies. All three areas also share an uncanny sense of the “hypereal” in that they simulate reality as verisimilar additions to it.”

The text is accompanied by my photo of the Sheriff house and jail from Western Leone, a Western film set based around the old McBain Ranch constructed for ‘Once Upon a Time in the West.’

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