The Challenge of the Xingu: indigenous cultures in the museum of the future.

Lead Research Organisation: Queen Mary, University of London
Department Name: Drama

Abstract

Technologies for preventative conservation are assuming an increasingly significant role in the management and protection of cultural heritage. With the incorporation of Motion-Capture and Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality technologies alongside methods already in use, these conservation practices have the potential to reach far beyond the accurate reproduction in 2D/3D facsimiles of monuments, artefacts and landscapes, offering new approaches that may enable museums, galleries and content developers in other creative industries to engage with, learn from and disseminate traditional, intense, live immersive cultural practices from around the world.

This potential for non-contact technologies to allow cultural heritage to be shared, experienced and understood is applicable to cultures across the world but this research proposes that it has a particular significance in the case of small, remote and fragile indigenous communities whose way of life is beyond the reach of the general public, whose survival depends on international awareness of their existence and significance, but who would be put at risk of destruction via the environmental and cultural impacts of intensive non-indigenous human contact.

This project will bring together a UK and Brazilian research team comprising: a lead researcher in applied performance practice; artists and community leaders from one of Brazil's remaining indigenous communities; curators and education practitioners from one of the UK's most popular museums, which has anthropology and object-handling collections of recognised importance and is developing a new 'World Gallery'; a Rio de Janeiro-based SME founded by a creative coder and devArtist working in immersive technologies; a world-leading European team of artists, technicians and conservators dedicated to digital mediation in fine art and archaeology contexts; one of Brazil's most sought-after designers in the worlds of architecture, graphic design, exhibitions and theatrical staging; and a writer from a leading UK producer of film, television and theatre, together with a distinguished researcher of the creative economy who will advise on the market transformations taking place, and the kinds of cultural value being established, as the creative economy becomes increasingly digitised.

It aims to combine the digital data capture associated with world-leading cultural conservation practice (such as photogrammetry and 3D scanning/printing) with motion-capture, VR/AR tools such as Oculus Rift headsets and Manus gloves, and traditional Kuikuro objects and artefacts, to prototype an intense immersive experience for UK museum audiences of the day to day life, environment, myths and storytelling, dance, graphism, decorative painting, crafts and other cultural practices of an indigenous Brazilian village in the Upper Xingu region.

The research team will share their work at the end of this nine month developmental project, aiming to change attitudes to digital work within the heritage and conservation sectors and to point to possible development routes that will enable museums and galleries to discover new and increasingly engaging ways to allow sites, artefacts and distant peoples to tell their stories for wider audiences.

Planned Impact

In addition to the academic benefits outlined above, this research project will offer direct benefits to all of the partners engaged in the developmental prototyping, and indicate potentials for future impact in the wider sectors within which they operate.

The Horniman Museum and Gardens, South London, and the museums/archive and heritage sector more broadly will benefit from experimentation and prototyping of VR/AR/MR that opens up rich new understandings of anthropology and object-based collections for the public through immersive experiences of cultural practices, daily life, landscape and artefacts. This is of particular relevance given the Museum's recent announcement that it is developing a 'World Gallery', which will occupy half of its footprint as a showcase of the way people from every continent live their lives and of 'what it means to be human' and will present 3,000 objects from its collection.

WeSense, Factum Arte/Factum Foundation and Playground Entertainment will benefit from the interdisciplinary experimentation and learning that takes place during the project and from the creation of a prototype which may signal future directions of technological development with potential for commercial application (particularly for WeSense and Factum Arte).

The Kuikuro community of the Ipatse village, Xingu indigenous territory, Mato Grosso State, Brazil will benefit from the opportunity to disseminate their cultural practices to a very large potential audience [Horniman Museum & Gardens annual visitor total: over 900,000] while remaining in control of the environmental and cultural impacts of this contact. The Kuikuro people will benefit from increased public understanding of their culture, which they hope will act as an advocacy tool and increase international public pressure on the Brazilian government to protect indigenous rights including territorial rights; from the opportunity to learn to operate new equipment and technologies with which they can document their practices for future generations and for fellow indigenous communities; and from the opportunity for exchange with other artists. Properly rewarded training and employment opportunities for individuals are also built in to the bid which, together with an appropriate donation to AIKAX the Indigenous Kuikuro Association, will assist the village in developing and maintaining some elements of healthcare infrastructure (generator to run the medical centre fridge to keep vaccines and antibiotics chilled, etc).

The general public will benefit from the rich understandings gained from immersive experiences of other cultures. This public will initially be largely in the UK, with the potential for wider future applications to bring increased benefits for further audiences and cultural communities.

Publications

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Title Xingu Village 
Description The 'Xingu Village' was an immersive installation that took place at the Horniman Museum on 15th & 16th December 2018. The installation prototyped an augmented reality experience aimed at taking visitors at the Horniman Museum into the everyday first-millennium life of a Kuikuro indigenous village in Brazil, allowing them to explore Kuikuro myths and legends, and enable them to experience the powerful, live immersive performance rituals of the Xingu territories. By combining digital content, captured using world-leading cultural conservation practices, with virtual and augmented reality tools, visitors learned about the day to day life, environment and cultural practices of the Kuikuro. The installation, the first of its kind, involved indigenous people directly in a process that both preserved and disseminated their social and cultural histories. Through use of non-contact technologies (ipads, hololens headsets, holograms, video mapping, 3D replica), the installation has raised awareness of remote and fragile indigenous communities, whose way of life is beyond the reach of the general public, without putting them at risk. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact What was clear, from all the conversations, was the' Xingu Village experience' had clearly impacted positively on its audience and left most of them wanting more of this kind of intervention from museums and galleries. Those who did participate in the complete experience spoke of it as being 'a unique concept and opportunity' and something they had never done before or certainly not encountered in a museum or gallery previously. Most visitors had valued the way the augmented reality technology brought objects to life in a new and engaging way, even when it wasn't perfect. Parents with children were pleased it could 'be enjoyed on so many levels' and most felt they were going away knowing more but also wanting to learn more because of the unique and multi-layered nature of the experience. People spoke about the ways in which the experience not only enabled them to understand a different culture but to also, 'to see outside ourselves, to see where we belong in the bigger picture.' There was a general consensus that 'much more of this kind of thing should happen'. And that it should be a two-way process. Many felt there was much for us to learn from the Kuikuro people. Especially about the ways in which they had preserved strong links with their cultural identity and their roots, while still being clearly part of the modern world and its technology. 
URL https://www.horniman.ac.uk/visit/events/xingu-village
 
Description The team was successful in delivering a pilot installation at the Horniman Museum that used a combination of mixed reality object animation, an immersive sound installation, video mapping, and authentic personal contact with two Kuikuro artists and cultural education practitioners to bring an intense experience of a remote culture to UK audiences. The experience was highly popular with public audiences.

From the Evaluation Report:

For a significant number of people, the curation and selection of the objects and artefacts by the villagers themselves was crucially important. As was their recognition that Takumã was the film-maker. People spoke about realising the importance of 'self-representation' and noted that 'giving a voice is important' which they felt you didn't get a sense at many exhibitions. They mentioned a strong sense that villagers had been given the 'power' to tell their own story and that came across in the holograms and videos. ?Others spoke about the possibility it offered to 'not just be observers of others' lives' but 'to see it from their point of view.'?For those Brazilians living in the UK, there was a particular resonance. 'It was so amazing for my kids to be able to experience this'. 'They were to see and experience their own inheritance.' 'It's not even something we get a chance to do when we return to Brazil -to go to these places and to meet the people.'

What was clear, from all the conversations, was the' Xingu Village experience' had clearly impacted positively on its audience and left most of them wanting more of this kind of intervention from museums and galleries. Most were sorry it wasn't available for longer as they had hoped to recommend it to others. Knowing that they were among a hundred or so people able to see it meant they often spoke about being 'privileged to be there'and many prefaced their feedback with the words, 'Thank you!' Even those who only encountered Yamalui in the corridor or were able to touch some of the tribal objects at the table in the music gallery expressed pleasure and gratitude at having this opportunity. Those who did participate in the complete experiences poke of it as being 'a unique concept and opportunity' and something they had never done before or certainly not encountered in a museum or gallery previously. They felt it was a way in which museums could begin to become 'living places', and their content become 'much more 3 -dimensional' and 'more relevant'. As part of that, most had valued the way the augmented reality technology brought objects to life in a new and engaging way, even when it wasn't perfect. Most presumed the technology could be improved on quickly and saw this as a good initiative to see how it might work with audiences. They enjoyed the mix of things like iPads, holograms and more traditional approaches such as film, objects and live encounter and responded to what they described as the 'multi-sensory' nature of the experience and the intriguing 'polarisation of high tech and low tech'. Each individual intervention was mentioned positively by someone; from the visual impact of the threads across the atrium to the introduction to Yamalui, to the sound 'journey'through the jungle, the objects and artefacts, the film and holograms, and finally the opportunity to sit down and speak about it afterwards. Parents with children were pleased it could 'be enjoyed on so many levels' and most felt they were going away knowing more but also wanting to learn more because of the unique and multi-layered nature of the experience. As one man commented, 'it is something that just sticks with you.'

The notion of agency played an important part in many people's responses. They were supportive of the inclusiveness of the partnership and the power given to the villagers to influence many of the choices. Most people understood, and mentioned, the importance of giving indigenous people a voice within the museum. There was a concern that they should not be 'commodified' or objectified because of differences in culture but that this should be seen, as Yamalui himself expressed, as an exchange between equals. There was also a strong sense, even from one or two of the children, of an understanding of the implications the current political climate has for indigenous people such as the Kuikuro. The need for greater visibility and real representation was recognised and although Yamalui spoke of the strength of the people of the Xingu and their culture, people felt it was important that this event had highlighted their existence and their lives.

People spoke about the ways in which the experience not only enabled them to understand a different culture but to also,'to see outside ourselves, to see where we belong in the bigger picture.' There was a fascination, when given the opportunity to speak to Yamalui or Takumã, with how people earned their living, how the children were educated and their relationship with the towns and cities of the places that surround them. Those visitors, and there were a number, who came from cultures where manioc, or cassava, was still part of their own diet, spoke about the personal connection they had felt with some of the objects and wanted the Horniman to think of ways in which the local Caribbean and other communities might share their stories in similar ways. They felt food should be central to this and would be an important way of the museum creating an affinity between itself and the people who come to visit. In the end, many people spoke about having spent more time than they had expected engaging with the experience,but also with speaking and thinking about it afterwards. The concept of time came up in a number of conversations as people explained that the mixed approach had 'engrossed them' in ways they had not expected, that the experience overall had a 'kind of intensity' that 'made you feel like you'd been there in that village for ages' and that the combination of the different approaches had given them the possibility to 'really get immersed in people's lives'in ways that went beyond their usual museum experience. People were also full of ideas of how the museum might use these kinds of technologies with other objects and artefacts -especially in the music gallery where we held our conversations. Many people suggested technology might be used to bring the instruments to life and help us understand how they were used and played as well as what they sounded like. There was a general consensus that 'much more of this kind of thing should happen'.And that it should be a two-way process. Many felt there was much for us to learn from the Kuikuro people. Especially about the ways in which they had preserved strong links with their cultural identity and their roots, while still being clearly part of the modern world and its technology.
Exploitation Route Learning about the way that traditional audio-visual and design practices can enhance the impact of immersive technologies, and the effectiveness of immersive museum experiences of remote cultures, can be applied in future exhibitions.
Sectors Creative Economy,Education,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Other

 
Description In Autumn 2018, during the gathering of material for this project, the shocking vandalism of an ancient patrimonial site for the Xingu peoples, the Kamuwaka Caves, was discovered. The network of partners in the research project, including the Wauja and Kuikuro people of the Xingu, People's Palace Projects, Factum Foundation and Brazilian anthropologists, were able quickly to mobilise their joint resources to produce powerful content for the national and international press including visuals of the damage and well researched briefings on both the scale of the cultural loss and the legal position and vulnerability of the site that enabled the story to be covered widely in State, national and international press. Factum Foundation is in discussion with the Wauja community about the creation of a rematerialized 3d record of the unique rock carvings that have been destroyed. AIKAX, People's Palace Projects and The Horniman Museum mounted an exhibition that gave 230 UK attenders an immersive insight into Kuikuro culture and the opportunity to make connection with two Kuikuro artists. A YouTube video of the Horniman experience has gained over 250 views. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6LcLiQhbeo8
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Other
 
Description Centre for Public Engagement Large Grant
Amount £9,971 (GBP)
Organisation Queen Mary University of London 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2018 
End 07/2019
 
Description Indigenous Research Methods workshop
Amount £52,000 (GBP)
Organisation Economic and Social Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2019 
End 04/2019
 
Description Horniman Museum 
Organisation Horniman Museum and Gardens
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Paul Heritage invited Janet Vitmayer (Director, Horniman Museum & Gardens) to join the London Advisory Board for the project and subsequently advised on the Horniman Museum's Brazil Festival for 2016.
Collaborator Contribution Janet Vitmayer advised on the research as a London Advisory Board member and two members of Horniman staff attended and contributed to the London seminar. As part of their Brazil Festival 2016, Horniman programmed an exhibition "Favela: Joy and Pain in the City" which extended opportunities for the public in the UK to experience the work of photographers from Observatory of the Favelas (whose exchange with the UK formed part of one of the Case Studies within The Art of Cultural Exchange).
Impact 1) Following Paul Heritage's initial advice, the Horniman Museum sent a staff member to Brazil in 2015 to research programme and artists for their planned Brazil Festival 2016. PPP/Paul Heritage supported the trip and brokered meetings with artists, particularly in Rio. Subsequently, PPP was contracted to make programming suggestions for the Festival and to work on and support the participation of various artists. 2) The exhibition 'Favela: Joy and Pain in the City' was programmed at the Horniman from 23rd April to 18th September 2016. 3) the exhibition was also featured in the Guardian Online https://www.theguardian.com/world/gallery/2016/may/02/favela-joy-and-pain-in-the-city-in-pictures 4) Residencies supported by PPP included: - Robson Rozza and Saulo Eduardo, performing a dance piece "Between X and Y" themed on intersex experience; running craft making workshops and storytelling sessions at the museum and collaborating with a local carnival association in South London - Derlon Almeida, creating new pieces of graffiti at four sites across London in Forest Hill, Shoreditch and Trafalgar Square - Projeto Morrinho, running participatory workshops with local young people and adults towards the collaborative creation of a decorative temporary installation at the Horniman representing a favela.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Horniman Museums and Gardens 
Organisation Horniman Museum and Gardens
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution People's Palace Projects (PPP) offered the opportunity for the Horniman to develop a partnership with all collaborators: AIKAX, Factum Foundation, WeSense, A Casa Gringo Cardia, Playground Entertainment and Rio Planetarium. PPP invited Robert Storrie (Anthropology Keeper, Horniman Museum), to join the residency organised by PPP in partnership with AIKAX in the Ipatse Village in the Upper Xingu between 5-16 September 2018. PPP produced the 2-day immersive installation 'Xingu Village' at the Horniman Museum on the 15 and 16th December 2018, offering to over 200 people the opportunity to embark on a digital journey into the Kuikuro village, using augmented reality and video technologies.
Collaborator Contribution Robert Storrie (Anthropology Keeper, Horniman Museum) participated in the Xingu residency in September and actively supported the development and curation of the digital experience. The Horniman hosted the 2-day immersive installation 'Xingu Village' at their Music Gallery on the 15 and 16th December 2018.
Impact The collaboration resulted in a 2-day immersive installation 'Xingu Village' at the Horniman's Music Gallery on the 15 and 16th December 2018. Using augmented reality and video technologies, the fully-booked event (207 attendees) offered the audience the opportunity to embark on a digital journey into the Kuikuro village, and to meet face to face with indigenous artists Takumã and Yamalui Kuikuro.
Start Year 2018
 
Description Event Xingu <> Rio <> Londres = Câmbios Culturais na balança, Museum of Tomorrow 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact In May 2018, I hosted an open conversation at Rio de Janeiro's Museum of Tomorrow with indigenous researchers, artists and anthropologists to discuss and disseminate the outputs of 'The Currency of the Cultural Exchange' and to introduce the new research project 'The Challenge of the Xingu'.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Xingu Village 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The 'Xingu Village' experience at the Horniman Museum invited its audience 'to embark on an immersive journey into the heart of Brazil and visit the Ipatse village which is home to the Kuikuro indigenous people of the Xingu.' And, in doing so, to gain a 'rich understanding' of the day to day life, environment, myths and storytelling, dance, graphism, decorative painting, crafts and cultural practices of another people. The result of a research project led by People's Palace Projects at Queen Mary, University of London and a number of partners including the Horniman and the Kuikuro Indigenous Association of the Upper Xingu, the 'experience' piloted and tested the notion of whether the traditional museum gallery experience might be enhanced and augmented through a curated interplay between a series of VR/AR tools and traditional Kuikuro objects and artefacts. Beginning with a blaze of coloured 'tongues' of wool, emerging from the mouth of one of the Xingu tribe and threading their way across the atrium, the 'experience' offered visitors a multi-sensory insight into another culture. An affecting metaphor for the different 'languages' through which we process our understanding of the world, these threads drew us into a journey of discovery. Prefaced by an introduction by Paul Heritage from Queen Mary, we were then invited to meet, and follow, singer and performer, Yamalui Kuikuro, into a darkened tunnel where we began to encounter the world of the Kuikuro as we made our way through the sounds and noises of the Brazilian rain forest. Emerging into the 'Ipatse village' as created for us by Takumã Kuikuro's 3D projected film, we then came face to face with the life and ways of its inhabitants, not only through the objects and artefacts chosen by the Kuikuro to represent their culture, but by engaging, through interaction with virtual reality headsets and iPads, with the stories of the people who had selected them.
The installation took place at the Horniman Museum on 15th & 16th December 2018 and was fully booked. It was visited by 207 visitors.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.horniman.ac.uk/visit/events/xingu-village