Ethnography of No Place
Video (NTSC, color, 30 min)

Rachel Lears and Saya Woolfalk, 2008




Ethnography of No Place is a series of seven collaborative video works that document an imaginary world. Constructed from household materials (fabrics, sounds, gestures), the characters and stories evoke travel narratives, science fiction and the rhetoric of anthropology to rework tropes of sexual, racial, and gender difference. We aim to harness the political potential of play and humor, drawing upon both surrealist practice and the tradition of carnivalesque parody, in order to produce an affective and empathetic engagement with a place that is “other” than that of the viewer. The name No Place is derived from the English word, “utopia,” coined by Thomas More from the Greek “no” (ou) and “place” (topos)—literally, no place. Ethnography of No Place emerged from collaborative dialogue between co-creators visual artist Saya Woolfalk and filmmaker/ anthropologist Rachel Lears. Inspired by the historical interconnections between anthropology and art, we invite reflection upon the utopian dimensions of both disciplines’ desire to make otherness knowable through visual representation and display. Through the representation of an imaginary world where familiar hierarchies are broken down and reconstructed, we wish to provoke ongoing discussion of power dynamics in our own world, and the role of both aesthetic and scientific knowledge in establishing and challenging them.