• 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.