The Poetics and Politics of Documentary symposium will be held at the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts, University of Sussex, between 2nd and 4th June, 2017.


Abstracts and Bios >>
Eyal Sivan | Keynote Speaker | Abstract
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Redemptory spectacle or emancipatory experience: The politics behind the character and story driven documentary

Documentary practice, its funding and distribution streams, are in permanent development and expansion. Never before was documentary so visible, accessible, diverse, popular and profitable as it is now. This apparent “success” is being analysed and justified by the growing emphasis on character and story driven documentary projects.

But also as signifying the emerging understanding of the possibilities offered to documentary practice by the emotional and sensorial engagement of the spectator. Consider the current focus on ‘good characters’ and ‘dramatic narratives’ or on ‘emotional’ and ‘sensorial experience’ as symptoms of documentary’s transformation into popular entertainment or at least a mass-form. Rather than being a sign of de-politicisation of the documentary practice, I suggest that we are witnessing a redefinition of the political role of the documentary.

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John Greyson | Keynote Speaker | Abstract
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Stereoscopy’s Unknown and Karaoke’s Uncanny: A Documentary Dialogue about Activism and Poetics (Using Chat Roulette)

John Greyson keynote image

When Melania was busted for stealing Michelle’s words during her disastrous speech at the Republican Convention, vloggers leapt into action, and within hours, side-by-side sterescopic duets of the two speeches were trending on youtube. It’s a new and now ubiquitous form of split-screen schadenfreude, when anyone ventures to claim someone else’s song as their own. Melania and Michelle, taking the ‘ok’ out of karaoke. M ‘n M, putting the ‘copy’ back in stereoscopy.

The eerie fascinations of cinematic mimicry — from Van Sant’s shot-for-shot remake of Psycho and Joynt/Arsenault’s redo of Campbell’s True/False, to the crowd-sourced shot-for-shot remake of Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil, currently in progress — exploit and explore the same-yet-different vibrations of side-by-side stereoscopy frames. These hybrid doppelgangers (with or without permission, in or out of sympathy, as sincere tribute or ironic treachery) proliferate exponentially in our digital moment, and with them, their poetic and political contradictions and implications expand and demand accordingly. What does it mean to perform a cover version of someone else’s film? How does the new version stereoscopically agitate in relation to the original? How do traditions of satire and agit-prop navigate the uncanniness of split-screen? What does side-by-side remake culture do to the verités of doc practice?

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