Lucien Castaing-Taylor

Lucien Castaing-Taylor

Fellow: Awarded 2012

Field of Study: Film - Video

Competition: US & Canada


Lucien Castaing-Taylor’s work seeks to conjugate art’s negative capability with an ethnographic attachment to the flux of life.  He is currently completing a series of audio-video installations and photographic Westerns that variously evoke the allure and ambivalence of the pastoral, including Hell Roaring Creek (2010), The High Trail (2010), Coom Biddy (2012), and Bedding Down (2012). He is also collaborating with Véréna Paravel on Leviathan, a multi-media project about men at sea and fish on boats. In 2010, he was commissioned to make a four-channel video installation by the Kino Arsenal to commemorate the four decades of the Berlinale Forum, The Quick and the Dead / Moutons de Panurge (2010). In 2009 he completed Sweetgrass, a film (produced by Ilisa Barbash) that is an unsentimental elegy at once to the American West and to the 10,000 years of uneasy accommodation between post-Paleolithic humans and animals, that was released theatrically in the United States, Canada, Latin America, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom.  In 1995, he collaborated with Isaac Julien and Mark Nash on their film Frantz Fanon: Black Skin White Mask. Earlier works (with Barbash) include In and Out of Africa (1992), an ethnographic video about authenticity, taste, and racial politics in the transnational African art market, which won eight international awards, and Made in USA (1990), a film about sweatshops and child labor in the Los Angeles garment industry. Castaing-Taylor’s work is in the permanent collection of New York’s Museum of Modern Art and the British Museum, and has been exhibited at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts, the Centre Pompidou, the Berlin Kunsthalle, Marian Goodman Gallery, the X-Initiative, and elsewhere, and has formed the subject of symposia at the Smithsonian Institution, the Musée du quai Branly, and the British Museum. His films and videos have screened at the AFI, BAFICI, Berlin, CPH:DOX, Locarno, New York, and Toronto film festivals, as well as at the Viennale, Punto de Vista, and the Flaherty seminar. Written publications include Visualizing Theory (ed., Routledge, 1994), Cross-Cultural Filmmaking (with Barbash, University of California Press, 1997), Transcultural Cinema, a collection of essays by ethnographic filmmaker David MacDougall (ed., Princeton University Press, 1998), and The Cinema of Robert Gardner (coed., with Barbash, Berg, 2008). He was the founding editor of the American Anthropological Association’s journal Visual Anthropology Review (1991-94). Castaing-Taylor is Professor of Visual Arts, and of Anthropology at Harvard University, where he is Director of the Sensory Ethnography Lab and Film Study Center, and Director of Graduate Studies (with Peter Galison) in Critical Media Practice.