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On the Real and the Visible in Experimental Documentary Film

Jewesbury, Daniel (2013) On the Real and the Visible in Experimental Documentary Film. In: Truth, Dare or Promise: Art and Documentary Revisited. (Eds: McLaughlin, Cahal and Pearce, Gail), Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Cambridge, pp. 66-77. ISBN 1-4438-4959-6 [Book section]

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This chapter attempts to define a particular strand within contemporary artists’ filmmaking practice concerned both with formal experimentation and the critical documentation and examination of the conditions of the ‘real’. It briefly introduces a tension that can arise between these two aims: excessive formalism (perhaps based on a slavish adherence to earlier experimental film work or screen theory) sometimes goes hand in hand with a naively nihilistic refusal of ‘the real’ as an objective material category; to many documentarists, meanwhile, the work can appear self-indulgent or over-aestheticised. The paper presents certain works, including Duncan Campbell’s film Bernadette (2008) and the author’s own Gilligan (2009) and NLR (2010) as workings-out, or dramatisations, of these tensions; rather than attempts at ‘resolution’, they are explorations of the elusive character of the real, and of the inherently contested nature of documentary media. Crucially, however, they are attempts to find ways of politicising representation, rather than indefinite deferrals of commitment, or mere ‘representations of the political’ (as a self-contained, prior category, based on clearly definable ‘events’ or easily-representable confrontations). The paper interrogates how an audio-visual medium is able to approach the deep structure of the ‘real’, and to make perceptible networks of relations and power that lie beneath the superficially visible. It explores how the traditions of documentary have been extended and augmented, whilst also being critiqued, by visual artists, and it attempts to make a case for viewing the histories and concerns of the traditions in parallel. It also touches briefly on the problems of making ‘political film’ in contexts (such as Northern Ireland) that are already so excessively over-inscribed, politically.

Item Type:Book section
Keywords:experimental film, documentary film, film, cinema, artists film, realism, duncan campbell, bernadette devlin mcaliskey
Faculties and Schools:Faculty of Arts > School of Media, Film & Journalism
Faculty of Arts
ID Code:27316
Deposited By: Dr Daniel Jewesbury
Deposited On:29 Sep 2013 11:55
Last Modified:09 Dec 2015 11:15

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