The Cassilhaus Travel Fellowship, made possible through a partnership between Cassilhaus, the Master of Fine Arts in Experimental and Documentary Arts (MFA|EDA), and the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, was created with the idea that travel can be transformative in the life of an emerging artist. The biennial $10,000 fellowship, funded by Ellen Cassilly and Frank Konhaus of Cassilhaus, supports recent Duke University MFA|EDA graduates in their artistic research and practice beyond the traditional educational environment for an eighteen-month period.
“Working so closely with the students in the Duke MFA|EDA program has been an exceptionally rich experience for us,” say Cassilly and Konhaus. “We hope that this travel fellowship can help a recent graduate in their artistic explorations.” Alina Taalman (Class of 2015) was the inaugural Cassilhaus Travel Fellow, 2016–18.
The recipient of the 2018 Cassilhaus Travel Fellowship is Jason Sudak (Class of 2017). Jason’s fellowship will take him to Guna Yala, “a politically autonomous province in Northern Panama, home to one of the earth’s most diverse biomes, where the indigenous Guna people have been sustainably shepherding the land for centuries.” In traveling to Guna Yala, Jason “will create an immersive, multi-channel sound installation using an array of non-traditional microphones to capture sounds lying beyond the threshold of human hearing.”
Jason will document the sonic life of the coral reef, the physical vibrations of the rainforest, and infrasound from the electromagnetism of the earth’s crust and core. These “invisible active energies” correspond with the Gunas’ unique spiritual beliefs, which involve shamanic practices, environmental sustainability, and distinct responses to white colonialism. “How the ritualized magic of technological reproduction—i.e. the colonialist act of sound recording—relates to this Guna belief in the spiritual copy or double-world is the generative tension of the work.” As part of the project Jason will apply to the La Wayaka artist residency, located in the Guna Yala province and in collaboration with the Guna people.
“In these xenophobic times, connections between our culture and others are all the more critical. We are excited to support Jason’s ambitious project in Panama and excited that it may include an artist residency component,” Ellen Cassilly and Frank Konhaus said of the announcement. “This Fellowship honors our parents as great champions of both education and travel. We believe extended travel has a unique power to educate, enrich, and transform people and take them places far beyond the point they initially disembarked. We feel fortunate to have the MFA|EDA and the Center for Documentary Studies as partners in this adventure.”
Sudak’s fellowship will begin in August and will culminate with a public presentation in Durham in spring 2020. Guidelines for the next Cassilhaus Travel Fellowship competition will be available in spring 2020.