Multimodal Anthropologies

By Jennifer Cool (USC)

In 1976, Stewart Brand recorded a conversation with Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson about cybernetics, feedback loops, and their photographic work in Bali. This conversation was the basis for Tripod, an experiment to explore the performative entanglements of media.

The experiment encompasses a script drawn from the published transcript of that conversation—“For God’s Sake, Margaret” (1976)—with excerpts from Bateson’s Steps to an Ecology of Mind (1972); two staged performances; the essay “Tripod: Performance, Media, Cybernetics” (2020) and the short film Tripod: Feedback (2019), viewable below.

Tripod was performed at the 2016 American Anthropological Association annual meeting in Minneapolis and at the University of Colorado Boulder in 2017. Both performances staged the Mead-Bateson-Brand conversation with video projections, Balinese music and dance by local artists, and a period for discussion across the fourth wall that incorporated Q&A between audiences and performers within the performance itself. These Q&A exchanges were the impetus for the film Tripod: Feedback (2019) that aims to showcase the para-ethnographic insights that emerged from connecting actors, dancers, musicians, and audiences in this way.


Read the full essay about the project here.

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