Wandering in Other Worlds

 

Contemporary artist and master of traditional Evenki song, Galina Veretnova, is on a residency at the Pitt Rivers Museum this October, as part of the Wandering in Other Worlds project. 

 

 

Galina performed at the Museum Late Night on Thursday 20 October.

Visit the museum webpages for updates on this ongoing project and additional digital content over the next few months. 

You can visit the new display, Wandering in Other Worlds: Evenki Cosmology and Shamanic Traditions, on the ground floor of the museum, that has been curated with Galina Veretnova, Alexander Varlamov, and Anya Gleizer. 
Some stills of 360 degree footage recorded by Anya Gleizer feature below, highlighting how 360 video and VR headsets have been used to digitally facilitate connections with the museum collections in Evenkia, and the bringing of Evenki perspectives into the museum. Two short films are included in the new display.

 

A woman wearing a VR headset stands outside in a landscape with some outbuildings.
A 360 degree bodycam view focusing on a person's hand touching a blue beadwork object in the centre of an open display case.
A group of people stand near reindeer and a sleigh surrounded by trees.

About the Project

The Wandering in Other Worlds: Talking with the Spirits project was initiated in the autumn of 2018 when Anya Gleizer began researching the history of the Maria Czaplicka collection at the Pitt Rivers Museum. Based on this research and a trip to Siberia, Gleizer created “Granny’s Bones”- an artwork comprising of an installation, a diptych-film in VR, a series of altered photographs and an accompanying performance. The work won the inaugural Mansfield Ruddock Art Prize and is now part of the Mansfield College art collection.

In the summer of 2019, Gleizer led another expedition to the Krasnoyarsk region of Siberia during which filming for an interactive Virtual Reality film retracing Czaplicka’s 1914 expedition route was shot. The expedition established a collaboration between the Pitt Rivers Museum, Associate Researcher Dr Jaanika Vider (who wrote a doctoral thesis about Czaplicka's collection), and Evenki scholars, culture-carriers and institutions that has resulted in the redisplay of the material from Czaplicka’s Siberian collection, presenting them through the context of Evenki cosmologies. The Virtual Reality film is being adapted to supplement the new display curated by Alexander Varlamov, Galina Veretnova, and Anya Gleizer.

 

 

In November 2019 Gleizer gave a performance (Anthropometamorphosis) at Mansfield College where contemporary artist and master of traditional Evenki song, Galina Veretnova appeared live, via WhatsApp and wireless projection. Veretnova sang and spoke to the Oxford audience directly, giving voice to Evenki perspectives, in an exchange facilitated by Irgichit’kan, the performance character developed by Gleizer in Evenkia.

The Pitt Rivers Museum invited Galina Veretnova to see the Siberian collection in person and to develop a performance in response to it, to continue the collaboration. Virtual workshops with museum staff have taken place since as a way of providing access to collections during the Covid-19 pandemic, and in preparation for the redisplay of the collections and the planned residency. Veretnova also participated in the museum’s Late Night event in May 2022, performing via a projected live stream in the lecture theatre and interacting with members of the audience, with Gleizer hosting and translating.

The October 2022 in-person residency included the performance of a reconciliation ritual with museum staff involving Evenki music, dance, and cosmology, led by Veretnova and Gleizer, embracing new ways of working towards healing relationships between the Museum as a holder of Evenki material and the Evenki people. A music soundtrack was specially performed on the viola and recorded by Andrea Fortier for this activity. 

 


The Artists

 

 

 

 

 

Galina Veretnova is an Evenki culture carrier (носительница культуры - a special status for Evenki artists and elders who are deemed suitable for transmitting old dances and songs to others by their communities) from Strelka-Chunya in Evenkia. She is a traditional singer and dancer who also leads a contemporary performance practice and works with the Tura museum. She seeks to raise awareness of Evenki language and culture through her art practice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trained as a conservation biologist and an artist, Anya Gleizer’s practice is conducted at an interface between art and science. She draws from her research in Alaska and Siberia and art methodologies to explore themes of interior and exterior wilderness through performances and installations that question our assumptions about art and science.

 


Statement from Galina Veretnova

I am Evenki. The preservation of my culture and heritage as an Evenki person is the central driving purpose of my life and work, my source of happiness, pride, connection and identity. 

Being of a minority indigenous people of the Russian Federation, we, the Evenki people, present a unique ethnic group that has managed to preserve an authentic connection to our ancestors, our lands and our traditions, despite many years of endured ethnic cleansing: the richness of our cultural tradition, our language, and our cosmology is a gift whose value is only being realised today. Colonial logics and patterns of thinking have historically dismissed Evenki (and other indigenous) knowledges as inconsequential to a universal understanding of the world. Through this fellowship, I hope to work with the PRM and the University of Oxford to reverse some of these logics, so we can work together going forwards, exploring solutions to our common problems and what a research of the future (one that involves all ethnic minority scholarships) will look like. 

For us, the Evenki people, the most important work is that of protecting cultural traditions and practices that embody our stories, cosmologies, and these material and cultural practices in physical form. This is of true value to our culture, not as treasures and items of history but as carriers of Evenki practice into the present. Therefore, a project in which I can introduce my people to audiences who have not encountered our culture before, and tell a truthful story of our perseverance, knowledge and ingenuity in changing times, is an important opportunity not only for me: it is an opportunity for us all, as Evenki, to tell our story that will not be mediated for us to skew our achievements and endurance. In taking this fellowship, I experience less a personal opportunity, than a communal responsibility to use this chance to advance the knowledge of my people. This is very important to us. Projects that aim to preserve and develop native cultural heritage present an important milestone for all of us, for our collective history.

My own work centres on the study of indigenous cultures and how this study affects us on an individual level, what in Russian is referred to as ethnopsychology.  For me as a researcher, it is important to encounter the objects that carry the material traditions of our people (some of which are, unfortunately hard to find back at home), and most importantly to share what I know about them – to show that they are alive, and that they give to their viewers the ever-living story of our peoples. I have been empowered by our council of elders as a cultural carrier of Evenki tradition, to study and work with these objects. It is a great joy for us to teach about our traditions, which have such strong effects on human psychology (whether Evenki or not), allowing those who experience them to feel again their connection to the living spirit, the living planet, to feel themselves alive.