Object! On the Documentary as Art – Session 1

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Saturday 4th February

Zika Auditorium
77-82 Whitechapel High St
E1 7QX


11.30 – 1.00     Session 1

Keynote by Erika Balsom (King’s College London) on documentary as a critical method and its predominance in contemporary art. The keynote is followed by a panel presentation and discussion with Rosalind Nashashibi and Mairéad McClean on the aesthetic potential and the ethical challenge of approaching documentary as a material object.

Keynote – Erika Balsom

Beyond Simulation: The Documentary Attitude in Contemporary Art

A dominant line of thinking from the 1990s onward sees observational documentary swiftly deemed naive and spectators incessantly warned not to believe in the reality of the image. For some, the acknowledgement that all images partake of construction and convention liquidates the difference between fiction and documentary entirely.

Did this postmodern critique of immediacy and objectivity do its job too well? Now a different “post-” has become a buzzword: the age of “post-truth politics” has apparently arrived. Meanwhile, lens-based capture is increasingly being displaced by computer-generated images. How can experimental documentary practices respond to this state of affairs? What are the critical imperatives today, and how have they changed since the 1990s? Through an examination of the work of selected contemporary artists, this talk will argue that reflexive documentary practices must reject the cynical proposal that reality has faded into mere simulation and instead insist on an ethics of attunement as the starting point of a production of truth. -EB

Let it Speak: Being with the Archive – Mairéad McClean

News archive generated with, of and within events of a particular moment in history can be viewed as a record of that time, as material evidence of the event. But whose ‘real’ , whose ‘moment’ is it? Political events can appear radically un-real when examined through personal history and the memory of having been there.

Having  grown up in Northern Ireland in the 1970s during a time of conflict and unrest, McClean  presents different kinds of factual material, which she re-examines from the position of ‘the encounter’ and it’s affective impact on her and on family life. In doing so she offers her work up to a complex reading with the intention of going beyond the boundaries of what we see and know. -MMcC

Beyond Simulation: The Documentary Attitude in Contemporary Art | Erika Balsom | Keynote

Image: Jean-Paul Kelly | That Ends That Matter 2016 | Courtesy of the artist
Object! On the Documentary as Art | Rosalind Nashashibi | Panel presentation and discussion

Image: Rosalind Nashashibi | Electrical Gaza UK 2015 | 17’53” | HD | Courtesy of the artist and LUX, London
Let it Speak: Being with the Archive | Mairéad McClean | Panel presentation and discussion

Image: Mairéad McClean | Broadcast 32172 2017 | 4” | archival footage/iPhone | Courtesy of the artist