The Documentary Real: Symposium on the ambiguous relation between documentary film and reality
October 21th, 2010: Domzaal, Art Centre Vooruit
[This] symposium invites artists and theorists to interrogate the ambiguous relation between documentary film and reality. This ambiguous relation reoccurs at least at two intertwining levels since the notion ‘The documentary real’ refers both to reality as the subject of a documentary, as to the phenomenon of the making of a documentary itself.
To start with the documentary real in its usual subject-related meaning, the debates revolve around the following topics: to what extent can a reel of film capture reality—if this is possible at all—and when can we say that it calls a new reality into being? Do not most films oscillate between ‘document’ and ‘argument’; that is, between representing, rewriting and creating reality? Moreover, what strategies do artists use to document our daily lives? Is the detour through alienation and animation perhaps the proper way to make an outright and truthful work? Do new developments in technological media provide new opportunities for documentary artists? Finally, how do these artistic experiments and their problems represent the culture we live in?
A disentanglement of the complexity of the documentary real in the above mentioned meaning falls short however, if a second meaning is left out of scope. A ‘documentary’, as a product for consumption, encloses a precarious reality in itself that covers many important issues: does the economy of producers and film festivals install a hidden selection procedure on topics, styles or approaches? How important is the promotion in the news media or the ongoing business of interviews, trailers and previews? If we leave consumer industry aside, how influential is the history and thus the tradition of documentary making for contemporary directors? Are they catching up or responding to this existing ‘reality’? How did tradition shape the codes of perception of the viewer? Also, what about the perception and the (un)intended (social) effects of a documentary? For instance, are shockumentaries the only way to get through to the contemporary audience, or are they just another version of entertainment? Finally, when artist engage in committed documentary making, where do we draw the thin line between activism and self-interest? And who are we to judge on that?
Speakers are: Cis Bierinckx (curator, artistic director Beurshouwburg Brussels), Stella Bruzzi (film theory, University of Warwick), Edwin Carels (curator, art theory, KASK), Marc De Kesel (Philosophy, Radboud University Nijmegen, Artevelde Hogeschool Gent), Katerina Gregos (curator), Johan Grimonprez (artist and filmmaker), Steven Jacobs (art history, KASK & Antwerp University), Vincent Meessen (artist), Jasper Rigole (artist) and Duncan Speakman (artist)
The Documentary Real is organized by KASK (Faculty of Fine Arts, University College Ghent) in collaboration with vzw Kunstensite (KuS), Vooruit and Filmfestival Ghent, thanks to the generous support of VAF (Flanders Image).
To Watch Videos of the Presentations