For our first meeting in 2012 we were invited by the students from the social anthropology department of the University of Munich.
The department is specialized in visual anthropology and the students host a weekly movie programme where they watch and discuss films that are relevant for social anthropology in general and visual anthropology in particular.
The movie “Kitchen Stories” asks many questions that are of interest both for designers and anthropologists. How can design researcher/ ethnographers immerse in the subject’s life without interfering too much? Should researchers actually pretend to be “the fly on the wall”? How close should researchers become with their research subjects? And what if access to the field of research is blocked?
You are welcome to watch the movie with us and join the discussion afterwards.
Kitchen Stories (2003)
As a result of a study in the 1950s in which efficiency experts at the Home Research Institute observed the kitchen habits of Swedish housewives to come up with a better workspace design, eighteen men are transported in caravans to farms in Norway to observe the cooking habits of Norwegian single men. Kitchen Stories, a quirky comedy co-written by Swedish director Bent Hamer and Norway’s Jörgen Bergmark, depicts the relationship between two elderly single men, a relationship in which the observer ends up being the observed. The film is similar, in its deadpan humor and offbeat characters, to the work of Aki Kaurismäki, but without the Finnish director’s overbearing self-consciousness.
The scientists wear white lab coats and carry clipboards, seemingly poised for an ET-like invasion. The observers, however, must live outside the homes of their subjects in small trailers and are not allowed to talk, drink, or otherwise interact with their subjects. Some, however, are not willing subjects. One of the scientists, Folke, a Swede (Tomas Norström), draws Isak (Joachim Calmeyer), an antisocial Norwegian farmer used to living in solitude. Isak at first refuses to let Folke into his house, resentful that the horse he was promised in return for his participation turned out to be a figurine. Folke, however, eventually gains access to the kitchen and sits every day perched in his high observation chair, recording Isak’s every movement like the Lord High Executioner until Isak decides to take his hot plate up to his bedroom to frustrate his unwelcome guest.
The sly Isak drills a hole through the upstairs bedroom floor and now secretly watches Folke in the kitchen. When they start conversing, each man insists on speaking his own language (not shown by the subtitles) as if to doggedly maintain their separate identities. Gradually they become friends, breaking through the barriers in their life that have imposed a limiting solitude. They begin first by drinking coffee in the morning, sharing a bit of their background, and then celebrating Isak’s birthday with cake and bourbon whiskey. Their interaction, of course, is against the rules of the study, and there are consequences for Folke. His life, however, acquires new meaning the more willing he is to take risks and share himself openly. Kitchen Stories is a small film, but one that is warmhearted and thoroughly enjoyable, a work that celebrates the small pleasures in just being alive without trying to be profound or seduce us with blatant emotional appeals. (IMDB)
When: Tuesday, January 24th at 8pm c.t.
Where: We will meet in the main building of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (Geschwister-Scholl-Platz 1), room E006
And afterwards? Informal meetup at the “Dienstagsbar” of the Kunstakademie nearby with drinks and music.
Want to join? RSVP here.
Big thanks to the Film AG.