Title: Approximation in the digital age to a humanity condemned to dissapear

Format:  Documentary / 3-channel 4k video InstallAtion . 5.1 surround . color

Length: 27 Minutes

              32 Minutes [cinema version]

year: 2014–2015

Countries of Production: Chile, Germany, usa

Producer /Director: Mario Pfeifer

Co-Producer: Ludlow38 New York, KOW

CoMmissioner / Funder: Museo sin Muros / Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Santiago de Chile, Kulturstiftung des Freistaates sachsen


Montage: Mario Pfeifer with Ronald Kay

Sound design / Mastering: Thomas Wallmann / Neuton

Musical score: Kamran Sadeghi

Production coordination by Simón Quiñones

Editing Assistance: Andrés Aguirre

Post-Production: Arri, Berlin

Approximation was produced on Shunuko, today known as Isla Navarino, in the southernmost parts of Patagonia, Chile. Intertwined episodes present different realties of an area that both indigenous, settlers and military personal call their home. The sequences look at both the land referred to as Tierra del Fuego, at manual and industrial labor, at plant life, at activities of Yaghan descendants in the bay of Katushawaia or at the nightlife of Puerto Williams.

Two women analyse digitalized photographs on an iPad, animating the images that Martin Gusinde took between 1919 -1924. They define on screen the family relations of the last free living Yaghans.

In 1953 Puerto Williams was founded as a military base, and since then the native population (antiguos) were resettled to Villa Ukika, about 2 km westwards. In 1973 the development of a civil settlement was decided and accelerated by territorial tensions between Chile and Argentina. The civil master plan included administrative and educational buildings as well a a church and a museum. The latter was named Museo Antropológico Martin Gusinde. The anthropologist's estate is today housed at Anthropos Institut as part of the Steyerl monastry in Sankt Augustin. The museum in Puerto Williams only hosts digital reproductions of Gusinde's documents. Other artefacts of that time are situated in museum depots in Chile, the USA and in Europe.

Approximation presents a portrait of a nation and community that violently underwent cultural and religious, social, political and economical transformation in a moment where it is about to disappear. Through an observational approach and the acceptance of the community Approximation makes not only visible the cruelty of anthropological practices in the region but appeals to a different kind of representation in moving images towards cultures that have existed long before the imperalistic gaze.

Approximation in the digital age to a humanity condemned to dissapear premiered on December 16th, 2014 at Migration Forms, Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York.  It also screened in the German Competition at the 61st International Short Film Festival Oberhausen.

More details on the project and the exhibition history can be found here.