CFP: Rethinking the Documentary: The Doc-Fiction Hybrid

A call for papers for Visible Evidence 18: Rethinking the Documentary: The Doc-Fiction Hybrid.

One of the most striking developments in recent documentary cinema is the emergence of films which blur or simply ignore the distinctions between fiction and nonfiction, staking out instead what Robert Koehler describes as “the zone of the cinema free of, or perhaps more precisely in between, hardened fact and invented fiction”. In films from different geopolitical contexts, such as Abbas Kiarostami’s “Ten” (2002), Hany Abu-Assad’s “Ford Transit” (2002), Kamal Aljafari’s “The Roof” (2006), Miguel Gomes’s “Our Beloved Month of August” (2008), or Pedro Gonzales Rubio’s “Alamar” (2009), truth and fiction are intermingled, compossible from the very beginning. Their modes of address for asserting such inseparability are respectively innovative, self-consciously playing with form to produce an uncertainty of indexing.

This prevalent development also informs works by contemporary artists such as Pierre Huyghe, Walid Raad/The Atlas Group, Omar Fast, Matthew Buckingham and Tacita Dean who, while employing media such as photography, film and video, also mobilize fictional narratives and figures as part of an effort to demarcate new horizons of intelligibility and visibility, what Jacques Rancière calls “the partition of the sensible.” By evoking the photographic document or documentary mode of depiction, these works often end up productively complicating any perceived notion of collective and communicative “common-sense.” While pointing to the limits of traditional forms of representation, they also suggest inventive strategies of staging and reenactments of events.

We invite paper proposals that will investigate films and videos which engage in such contingent pursuit of truth, texts which ask viewers to embrace this formal and conceptual hybridity as a strategy meant not so much to dupe, mislead, or mock, but to offer a different documenting tactic which can address the irreducibly complex political life conditions under globalization. Does this strategy point to a possible failure of traditional documentary tactics by criticizing any presumed claims with regard to the transparency and universality of knowledge and visual forms of representation? Does it point to new models of artistic and political critique beyond both identity politics and “the politics of representation”? How does technology in its many cultural and political associations and implications mediate and generate the elusiveness produced between document and fiction? What new positions or roles are allocated to viewers within these new documentary and artistic hybrids?

Please email a 250-300 word proposal, along with a bibliography and a brief bio (including a history of VE participation) to Ohad Landesman at ohad.landesman@nyu.edu and Vered Maimon at maimonv@gmail.com.

Deadline for proposals is January 1, 2011; all submitters will be notified by Friday, January 7, 2011, so that those who will not be on the proposed panel can apply to the open call.