• Lo zoo delle donne giraffe: un viaggio tra i Kayan nella Tailandia del nord

      Nicoletti, Martino; University of Derby, School of Art and Design (Edizioni Exòrma - Roma, 2011)
      In the form of an extended travelogue combined with information relating to the recent history of the Kayan as well as to their mythology and religion, the work – based on experience during field-work in the north-west of Thailand in 2009 and 2010 – is an original contribution to knowledge in the field of the history of ethnic tourism among the Kayan. A sizable set of BW photographs – taken by the author using a 1920s Kodak box camera and a 1960s Agfa medium format camera – enriches the work, providing a rare contribution to the most experimental contemporary visual anthropology and lens-based arts. Text and images are, moreover, accompanied by a DVD containing an experimental Super-8 short by the author: "I Must Not Look You in the Eyes", a dynamic counterpart to the written and visual accounts, as well as to their specific mood.
    • Submerged landscapes: aesthetics of visual primitivism

      Nicoletti, Martino; University of Derby, School of Art and Design (2012)
      This practice-based thesis presents the results of experimental research devoted to ethnic tourism among the Kayan minority and has involved the interconnection of artistic and anthropological languages. Known worldwide for the traditional female custom of wearing a long coiled brass necklace aimed at causing a considerable extension to the neck, the Kayan are a Tibeto-Burman ethnic group originally from Burma. Due to the prolonged civil war in their own homeland, a large number of Kayan recently fled from Burma to refuge in neighbouring Thailand. Here, over the past years, in response to the “incisive” tourism policy promoted by the Thai government in the northern areas of the country, some families, abandoning the refugee camps where they were hosted, have been resettled in several new villages open to tourists, on payment of a modest entrance fee. Here the Kayan, their culture and their daily life, have been transformed into an authentic tourist attraction capable of drawing about 10,000 visitors a year. Founded on a strictly “visual media primitivist” approach and inspired by its peculiar aesthetics – as systematically presented in the first, theoretical, section of the thesis –, the enquiry involves a multimedia perspective. In such a context, analogue photography and filmmaking, creative writing and sound composition have been combined to give concrete shape to an original artwork firmly grounded in ethnographic practice. The choice, far from being a solely arbitrary and subjective option, has indeed been motivated by the critical employment of specific theoretical assumptions of some of the most recent streams of anthropology and epistemology of the human sciences. The multidisciplinary methodology adopted to develop the research, as well as the multifaceted language employed to display its results, represent an innovative and experimental way of approaching the complex theme of cultural identity in present-day Asian contexts, as well as of highlighting the most aesthetic and philosophic implications connected to the revival of analogue vintage media in contemporary artistic practice.
    • "Visual media primitivism: toward a Poetic Ethnography’"

      Nicoletti, Martino; University of Derby, School of Art and Design (Oxford-New York, 2013)
      This article – based on an experimental research carried out by the author in Thailand and founded on the systematic employment of vintage analogue lens-based media – provides an original contribution to the epistemology of visual anthropology and to its relation with contemporary visual art practices.
    • The zoo of the giraffe women: a journey among the Kayan of Northern Thailand

      Nicoletti, Martino; University of Derby, School of Art and Design (Vajra Publications - Kathmandu, 2013)
      In a village in the far north of Thailand, under the stunning light of a tropical sun, surreal women impeccably wearing their ethnic attire, smiling and motionless, offer themselves to the cameras of voracious tourists. Adorned with gorgeous necklaces of shining brass coils, they are the famous “giraffe women”, the epithet commonly used to define members of the Kayan tribe originally from eastern Burma. The vivid contrast between the myths narrating the origin of this ethnic group and their current condition as refugees from the civil war in their homeland provides an outstanding and sharp testimony to life in Thailand’s “human zoos”. A wide selection of photographs taken by the author using primitive vintage cameras from the early 1900s and a poignant short video, shot with Super-8 film, enrich the volume, visually amplifying the unique mood of the written account.