Michael Oppitz

Singers of Ten Thousand Lines

27 January 2023 -
25 February 2023

opening Friday, 27 January

6-8pm

Michael Oppitz

 

Singers of Ten Thousand Lines

 

27 January - 25 February 2023

 

 

Titled “Singers of Ten Thousand Lines” Galerie Buchholz presents a group of photographs in conjunction with the launch of a new book. Both book and exhibited photographs focus on the extraordinary mythical traditions and ritual practices in a remote community in the Himalayan mountains which Michael Oppitz studied over a long period of field research. The book now launched is the English version of his German original, first published in 1981 by Syndikat Verlag under the title “Schamanen im Blinden Land”. That book came out in parallel to a film by the same name, today considered a classic. Now appearing in English as “Shamans of the Blind Country. A picture book from the Himalaya” the new version extends the old by more than a third with additional original documentary photographs. It traces the historical changes that have transformed this mountainous region of Nepal in the last four decades in an extensive epilogue, and it suggests a wider context of ritual healing in the Himalaya by appending a selection of early pictures of shamanism in Siberia.

 

While the picture book “Shamans of the Blind Country” generates a tension between words and pictures by putting both on equal footing, granting each an equal space, the exhibition “Singers of Ten Thousand Lines” relies exclusively on photographs. Each of these photos stands on its own, without any verbal support. Isolated, each photograph tells its own story, even though all of them are connected by the same social and ritual background: the religious and daily life of the Himalayan village here documented. Only some of the photographs shown display a serial quality, suggesting the continuous run of events from which they were taken. This social run of life was the common starting point for the book, the film, and the photographs, each seeking in their own way to test the possibilities of how ethnography can witness the passing of time.

 

 

Michael Oppitz was born in 1942 near Schneekoppe on the Czech-Polish border (Silesia). He grew up in Cologne and studied in Berkeley, Bonn, and Cologne. He earned his PhD in 1974 with a book on the history of structural anthropology, followed by a habilitation on cross-cousin marriage in 1986. He held visiting professorships in England, France, and the United States, and was professor of anthropology at the University of Zurich and director of the Ethnographic Museum, Zurich, from 1991 until 2008, when he retired.

He conducted fieldwork in the Himalayas among the Sherpa (1965), the Magar (1977-1984), the Naxi of Yunnan (1995-1996), and the Qiang of Sichuan (2000-2001). Studies on kinship, mythology, ritual, shamanism, visual anthropology, and material culture were released by various publishers; his most recent book, “Morphologie der Schamanentrommel”, came out in 2013. He is currently working on a study on the myth of lost writing.

His famous film “Shamans of the Blind Country” was shot among the Magar, a mountain people in northwestern Nepal, and premiered at the American Museum of Natural History, New York, in 1980. One of the voices in the English narration is William S. Burroughs.

Michael Oppitz

Initiand spotting helping spirits - successfully, 1978

silver gelatin print, 2021

60 x 40 cm

installation view

Galerie Buchholz, New York 2023

Michael Oppitz

Initiand spotting helping spirits - successfully, 1978

silver gelatin print, 2021

60 x 40 cm

Michael Oppitz

Singers of Ten Thousand Lines

installation view

Galerie Buchholz, New York 2023

Michael Oppitz

Singers of Ten Thousand Lines

installation view

Galerie Buchholz, New York 2023

Michael Oppitz

Master guru catching twig of life tree for pupil, 1978

silver gelatin print, 2021

42 x 28 cm

Michael Oppitz

Taka, capital of the northern Magar, 1984

silver gelatin print, 2021

28 x 42 cm

Michael Oppitz

Bow and arrow as exorcist tools, 1979

silver gelatin print, 2021

28 x 42 cm

Michael Oppitz

Singers of Ten Thousand Lines

installation view

Galerie Buchholz, New York 2023

Michael Oppitz

Diagnosis in sign language: nine days of danger, 1978

silver gelatin print, 2021

42 x 28 cm

Michael Oppitz

Looking for a fugitive soul under world mat, 1979

silver gelatin print, 2021

28 x 42 cm

Michael Oppitz

Approaching the border of fate, 1984

silver gelatin print, 2021

28 x 42 cm

Michael Oppitz

The Dumb Dog, genius of obscenities, 1978

silver gelatin print, 2021

42 x 28 cm

Michael Oppitz

Singers of Ten Thousand Lines

installation view

Galerie Buchholz, New York 2023

Michael Oppitz

Double-faced bridge post, 1984

silver gelatin print, 2021

42 x 28 cm

Michael Oppitz

Singers of Ten Thousand Lines

installation view

Galerie Buchholz, New York 2023

Michael Oppitz

Village guardian carved in wood, 1982

silver gelatin print, 2021

42 x 28 cm

Michael Oppitz

Log bridge over Uttar Ganga, 1984

silver gelatin print, 2021

28 x 42 cm

Michael Oppitz

On the way to the Dark Age, 1984

silver gelatin print, 2021

28 x 42 cm

Michael Oppitz

Stage point of shaman’s ritual journey, 1978

silver gelatin print, 2021

28 x 42 cm

Michael Oppitz

Fishing net protecting clan-members against spirit attack, 1978

silver gelatin print, 2021

40 x 60 cm

installation view

Galerie Buchholz, New York 2023

Michael Oppitz

Fishing net protecting clan-members against spirit attack, 1978

silver gelatin print, 2021

40 x 60 cm

Michael Oppitz

Singers of Ten Thousand Lines

installation view

Galerie Buchholz, New York 2023

Michael Oppitz

Shamans looking out for soul robbers near mat, 1984

silver gelatin print, 2021

40 x 60 cm

Michael Oppitz

Wild dance around tree of ritual birth, 1978

silver gelatin print, 2021

60 x 40 cm

Michael Oppitz

Guild of shamans abandoning neophyte for solitary ritual birth, 1981

silver gelatin print, 2021

42 x 28 cm

Michael Oppitz

Singers of Ten Thousand Lines

installation view

Galerie Buchholz, New York 2023

Michael Oppitz

Singers of Ten Thousand Lines

installation view

Galerie Buchholz, New York 2023

Shaman drumsticks and armrest

original pamphlet for screening of Michael Oppitz “Shamans

of the Blind Country” at the American Museum of Natural

History, 1980

front/back

 

original pamphlet for a screening of Michael Oppitz “Shamans

of the Blind Country” at the University of Texas at Dallas

 

Michael Oppitz

“Materials on the Making of an Ethnographic Film: Shamans

of the Blind Country” Goethe Institut, 1982

48 pages, Owrps, 22,5 x 14,5 cm

Michael Oppitz

“Materials on the Making of an Ethnographic Film: Shamans

of the Blind Country” Goethe Institut, 1982

48 pages, Owrps, 22,5 x 14,5 cm

 

images of the film screening of “Shamans of the Blind Country”

Taka, October 1982

in: exhibition catalogue Michael Oppitz Mythische Landschaften,

Kolumba Museum, Köln 2018

Michael Oppitz

Shamans taking rest on porch of neophyte’s house, 1984

silver gelatin print, 2021

40 x 60 cm

Michael Oppitz

Neophyte with heart of ram and twig of life tree, 1978

silver gelatin print, 2021

42 x 28 cm

Michael Oppitz

Phalanx of shamans dancing to tree of life, 1978

silver gelatin print, 2021

28 x 42 cm

Michael Oppitz

Singers of Ten Thousand Lines

installation view

Galerie Buchholz, New York 2023

Michael Oppitz

Dozing shamans in long-night séance, 1984

silver gelatin print, 2021

40 x 60 cm

Michael Oppitz

Dumb Dog in his favourite role as bawdy entertainer, 1978

silver gelatin print, 2021

60 x 40 cm

Michael Oppitz

Anticipating dancer at the central post of the house, 1984

silver gelatin print, 2021

28 x 42 cm

Michael Oppitz

Frightening witches with the squeals of a pig, 1979

silver gelatin print, 2021

42 x 28 cm

Michael Oppitz

Singers of Ten Thousand Lines

installation view

Galerie Buchholz, New York 2023

Michael Oppitz

Shepherd wrapped in waterproof blanket, 1978

silver gelatin print, 2021

42 x 28 cm

Michael Oppitz

Summer migration to alpine pastures, 1981

silver gelatin print, 2021

28 x 42 cm

Michael Oppitz

Bridge of hope, 1984

silver gelatin print, 2021

28 x 42 cm

Michael Oppitz

Jogi as joker, head of itinerant dance troupe, 1981

silver gelatin print, 2021

42 x 28 cm

Michael Oppitz

Chanting a genesis myth in antiphony, 1978

silver gelatin print, 2021

42 x 28 cm

Michael Oppitz

Singers of Ten Thousand Lines

installation view

Galerie Buchholz, New York 2023

Michael Oppitz

Constructing a rope ladder against malignant spirits, 1978

silver gelatin print, 2021

28 x 42 cm

Spirit trap used in healing ritual

Michael Oppitz

Villagers returning to tree of reincarnation, 1984

silver gelatin print, 2021

20 x 30 cm

Michael Oppitz

Final initiation act in solitude: blindfolded on elevated platform, 1978

silver gelatin print, 2021

42 x 28 cm

Michael Oppitz

Kids playing shaman’s birth, 1979

silver gelatin print, 2021

30 x 20 cm