Documentary and the cinematic thought machine

Documentary practice is a way to think the world. It can be a formulating, a historicising, a narrativising of experience that is otherwise chaotic and confusing. However there are alternative ways of knowing that come through lateral approaches, patience, perhaps even intuition. There can be a sense of accumulating understanding that speaks of an experiential kind of knowing that cannot be articulated or contained in a few rhetorical dot points. It is an approach where the sense of spending time and being open to ‘nothing’ happening and seeing where that might lead is valued as part of the process of coming to know.

My interest lies in how an artistic practice can shift the work of documentary from a didacticism that says, “I know all about this, come and listen to my wise words” towards an ongoing conversation. While the notion of an “art work” can have the effect of elevating the artist and the work above the ordinary, the openness of expression permits room for the audience to bring their own understandings to bear on the issues under consideration with the attendant possibility for greater and more deeply experienced impact. In the admission of uncertainty and the acknowledgement of complexity, the agency of the audience and their ability to know something in multiple ways is mobilised.

Bettina Frankham