[2019] Phone & spear

  title={Phone \& Spear: A Yuta Anthropology},
  author={Media, M.},
  publisher={MIT Press}

In openlibrary.

My highlights:

[phones] are everywhere in the funeral ground, ceremony ground, hunting, fishing, shopping.

These days we keep the phones close to our bodies. Always, everywhere, together. In the old days, Yolgnu went everywhere with their spear.

These days Yolngu use the phone to connect us to the madayin [sacred objects], the wanga, the old people, with our sacred pattern and our identity.

Each clan has its own gamunungu [clay, paint, colours, sacred design] from the land. We’ve got miny’tji [patterns] in our rumbal [body]. Because we’ve got madayin [sacred designs and objects] and identity. You have to show yourself with your body, who you are, your body, your identit… and people will see and straight away know who you are. What i believe is that these patterns come from the bottom of the earth, soil, and they hold us firm.

The world can be reconfigured and made anew through deliberate acts of combination and recombination. Take up mobile phones as aesthetically potent, world-making devices. Create worlds immanent with relationality.

yuta to describe when novel or “foreign” technologies, styles and ideas are taken up in ways that render them pleasurably recognisable in accordance with existing local values, aesthetics and histories.

Dhakay-nganhawuy rom [the law of feelings] is what Furrumuruwuy calls aesthetics that guide us. The ways that perception, sensation, imagination and memory play a critical role in constituting particular ‘structures of feeling’. The camera and screen become sites for the production and transmission of affect that moves between bodies. We are concerned with what happens when one person’s deep feelings become palpable to another, thereby producing, in response, a powerful surge of affect that results in a profound sense of connection. These feelings accumulate on one’s ngayangu, to become the foundation for an open-hearted capacity to relate to the world and others.
This then informs the way they subsequently see (and hear and taste and smell and touch) the world.

Through these imagistic practices of feeling, they actively render worlds in palpable constellations of relationship. Producing intercultural relationships through showing images and objects in the expectation of creating mutuality and regard. Images are not expected to do their work alone. Vision as socially generative, and photo assemblage as loving acts of world-making.

Artful anthropology does not expect to extract itself from the circuits of obligation, care and reciprocity through which these images were made to move. Aesthetics is inseparable from ethics and politics, it provides the very grounds of analysis, opening up new ways of thinking, a multisensory means by which to address old issues anew.

Remediation, cultural significance of new media lies in the way that they refashion, rival or pay homage to earlier ones. It alerts us to cultural forms shaped by back-and-forth relationships that may not immediately seem to present evidence of a newness predicated precisely on a radical discontinuity with the past.

Refusing a future in which everyone and everything becomes mashed together into compliant – and boring – homogeneity. Its own field of generative tension and possibility. Apparently irreconcilable differences. Not everything should be translated or can be translated.

On one level this subject can be characterised by its speed and change. At another level it’s about increments of understanding that can only accrue with time.

The thread of foreign media in terms of a cumulative assault on the sensorium. Music and film from elsewhere threatened to make Yolngu deaf and blind to their own songs and the communicative call of their land. “Our culture is fading.” It’s all about color and pattern, and making things lively. Our methods must be aesthetic; texts and images have to work together to produce feelings.

Repetition can be the source of life itself, recursive creativity can enable processes of renewal. A shared and loving labour of playful pattern-making. We are not sitting there alone. All of life is there. Stories, songs, ceremonies, feelings, movement… the richness of life. Through the colour and patterns the old people can see more, they can see deeper, they can see the madayin and all the connections that an image like that can hold. These patterns bring out more energy; our bodies are connecting to the land and sea. If you come really close, then you can see everything.

As the phone brings new proximities, new relations must necessarily be forged. The global did not pre-exist, it must be made. Assemblages… are open-ended gatherings. They allow us to ask about communal effects without assuming them. They show us potential histories in the making… How do gatherings sometimes become part of ‘happenings,’ that is, greater than the sum of their parts?

We are remixing the bitja to make new patterns. More energy, more colour, more deep meanings and deeper richness of feeling, using new technologies that give us new ways to show the patterns and stories that make us who we are and where we belong and how we connect, whether we are walking around with a spear or with a phone. Telling stories and showing images are deeply social and political acts.

We need to have a foot in both worlds. Otherwise we will lose our balance. Otherwise, we will fall over.

Disappearance of place ‘as a result of an unprecedented accelerating intersection of globalization, virtualization, and cellularization’. Yet the co-creative dynamics of the mobile media we share focus on place-based belonging; they demonstrate how sensous relationships with the land, and the sea, the spirits of the ancestors, and indeed the recently deceased, can be evoked, mediated and affirmed by using mobile phones. Its the aesthetic medium of our time.

Yolngu education is learning to love and understand our homeland and the ancestors who have provided it for us, so as to create a life for ourselves reworking the truths we have learned from the land and from the elders, into a celebration of who we are and where we are in the modern world.

Love is the result of careful cultivation. One arrives at a relationship of love through a sustained attention to the land as site and source of ancestral connection. Love accompanies understanding. It is emergent. It is located. It offers a more-than-human embrace.

Love teaches you about incommesurability. Not to mention frustration and vulnerability. It schools you in the ways that closeness may lead to friction and, sometimes, irreparable fracture; the ways that we lurch towards and away from each other. Might love offer a means to overcome the distancing deemed necessary for anthropological analysis? To allow both for our ambitions and our failings in such a way that the aesthetic acts of care, commitment and connection at the heart of this book could be foregrounded without producing a heroic narrative of technological redemption. I abandoned the idea fearing it was bad anthropology: the notion of love was too generic, too bound in balanda concepts and expectations.

To claim vision (as part of a relational sensorium that prioritises a synaesthetic attention to the world) as socially generative, an ongoing concern to invoke, nurture and renew and always-necessarily-shifting constellation of intergenerational and intercultural relationships. It is possible to see past gaps, dissonance and dislocation through deliberate acts of showing, seeing, recalling and envisioning. The active process of finding and seeing connections that emerge from beneath a surface of logics and appearance. We can connect, We can learn from each other, we can share life, why not?

Vision Yolngu-style means that each person gets to look out from where they are to see the world and locate themselves in shifting and always emergent patterns of relationship.