Contemporary engagements with documentary are multifaceted and complex, reaching across disciplines to explore the intersections of politics and aesthetics, representation and reality, truth and illusion. Discarding the old notions of “fly on the wall” immediacy or quasi-scientific aspirations to objectivity, critics now understand documentary not as the neutral picturing of reality but as a way of coming to terms with reality through images and narrative. This book collects writings by artists, filmmakers, art historians, poets, literary critics, anthropologists, theorists, and others, to investigate one of the most vital areas of cultural practice: documentary. Their investigations take many forms—essays, personal memoirs, interviews, poetry.
Contemporary art turned away from the medium and toward the world, using photography and the moving image to take up global perspectives. Documentary filmmakers, meanwhile, began to work in the gallery context. The contributors consider the hybridization of art and film, and the “documentary turn” of contemporary art. They discuss digital technology and the “crisis of faith” caused by manipulation and generation of images, and the fading of the progressive social mandate that has historically characterized documentary. They consider invisible data and visible evidence; problems of archiving; and surveillance and biometric control, forms of documentation that call for “informatic opacity” as a means of evasion.
Table of Contents
Introduction: The Documentary Attitude - Erika Balsom and Hila Peleg
Bruises and Blushes: Photography "Beyond" Anthropology - Christopher Pinney
"The Cruel Radiance of What Is" - Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Verena Paravel and Ben Rivers in Conversation
"A Cage of Information," or, What is a Biometric Diagram? - Zach Blas
Interviews in Perspective 1: The Man with a Tape Recorder - Sylvere Lotringer
Photography Is Not Served: "The Family of Man" and The Human Condition - Ariella Azoulay
"Now that's a Brecht at Last!": Harun Farocki's Observational Films - Volker Pantenburg
Didactic Elegy - Ben Lerner
Reading Between the Images - Christa Blümlinger
Montage Against All Odds - Antonia Majaca and Eyal Sivan in Conversation
No Man's Land, Every Man's Home: Clemens von Wedemeyer's Documentary Aporia - Evgenia Giannouri
Interviews in Perspective 2: Dying Documented - Sylvere Lotringer
Narrative, "Evidence Verite," and the Different Truths of the Modern Trial Documentary - Stella Bruzzi
The Right to One's Self-Image - Sohrab Mohebbi
Data Visualisation and Documentary's (In)visible Frontiers - Kris Fallon
Copublished with the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW), Berlin
About the Editors
Erika Balsom is a Lecturer in Film Studies and Liberal Arts at King’s College London and the author ofExhibition Cinema in Contemporary Art.
Hila Peleg is a curator and filmmaker based in Berlin and the founder and artistic director of the Berlin Documentary Forum.
MIT Press with the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW), Berlin