Key Questions

  1. What happens when documentary shifts beyond linear-sequential form – when it becomes a collection, a constellation, a model, a navigable space?
  2. How do current modes of spatial, networked, embodied and affective interaction relate to the traditional forms of documentary interaction – exposition, storytelling, etc.?
  3. How is the notion of document conceived within contemporary documentary practice? How does the document mediate a relation between the space of events and the space of documentary form/aesthetics?

5 thoughts on “Key Questions

  1. In relation to the third key question, I thought these quotes from Bill Nichols (“Introduction to Documentary” 2nd Ed, 2010) might be interesting provocations.
    Although he states that “Definitions of documentary are always playing catch-up, trying to adapt to changes in what counts as a documentary and why” (p15) he later, quite categorically asserts “Documentaries are not documents. They may use documents and facts, but they always interpret them. They usually do so in an expressive, engaging way. This lends documentaries the strong sense of voice that non-documentaries lack” (p147). The conceiving/understanding of document for the purposes of this discussion is very key. Are we talking an object, an action? What levels of subjectivity are admitted/permitted? Nichols seems to be thinking of the document as an objective, perhaps scientific recording but is there already embedded a level of subjective choice that starts to shift the object/action along a document < -> documentary continuum?

  2. Yes, it seems to me that Nichols distinction is problematic, particularly within traditions of contemporary art practice. The document is not simple associated with the field of objective evidence, but can be the tangible remainder of an ephemeral process or a kind of potent, mediated fragment (removed from the texture of events). In this sense, the distinction between subjectivity/objectivity doesn’t quite hold, or doesn’t quite address the key aspects of the problem. I guess my question is about trying to address this new sense of the document.

  3. Hi both. interesting!

    is the document vs documentary thing, as per nichols, related to the data/information thing?

    in other words, information as data which is brought to life in specific situations, versus data as the ‘dumb’ material (as in, it does not speak for itself?)

  4. Hi all, this is really interesting.
    For some reason the first question makes me think of the individual vs aggregate distinction, particularly with regards to digital data: what is an element, and what is an aggregate? What does it mean when we say that an aggregate lasts in time?

    This then relates to the third question – what happens when the space of events IS the document. For example, consider pachube – can we say that the data feeds there form dynamic events? If so, we are dealing with object-oriented documentaries, are we not?


    • Thanks Ted, yes that’s a really good question. What happens when the event itself incorporates mediation or is constituted in terms of mediation?

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