On April 4th, Docuverse held their annual symposium on the topic of Expanding Documentary: Ecologies & Dialogues at RMIT University in Melbourne. Initially set for February 9th, the event was rescheduled due to Adrian Miles’ sudden passing earlier that week. The postponement allowed the inclusion of a commemoration, in which Docuverse invited fellow colleagues and students to share fragmented responses on Adrian’s work and its imprints. In a randomized fashion, Pauline Anastasiou, Hannah Brasier, Nicholas Hansen, Stephanie Milsom, Kim Munro and Franziska Weidle eluded to some of the central concepts and ideas in Adrian’s most recent thinking. An incomplete list might encompass: media machines, documentary data collection, fragments, computational nonfiction, granularity, the cow in the field is not a story, a spider orchestra, critical intimacy, speculation. Furthermore, Adrian Miles’ colleague and friend as well as Associate Professor and Head of Cinema Studies at the School of Media and Communication Adrian Danks opened the symposium with a few words on Adrian’s work and life. Among other things, he highlighted Adrian’s involvement and ongoing support for Docuverse and commented on his eagerness to engage in Dialogues.
The first dialogue of the day, then, started with a conversation about Virtual Reality and 360° documentary. In his talk entitled “The Creative Treatment of Experience”, Max Schleser approached VR as a “dream space” that would invite us to explore and experiment by bringing different theories and practices to the table. Through the lens of his Neocortex project, he elaborated on the notion of “spatialized storytelling” as a special feature of VR that would emphasize the present tense and link body movements to hermeneutics. Continuing the discussion, Catherine Gough-Brady spoke about the potentials of 360 to shape the story in the audience’s mind by focusing on the form’s specific visual qualities and physical effects including lo-fi, dizziness and the impression of being encompassed by the image. In her work, she explores, for instance, how these effects can create magical wonder by focusing on “nothing” instead of aiming for a clear direction of the audience’s attention. The dialogue that developed in response to Max and Catherine’s presentations mainly focused on the fact that in VR and 360 filmmaking, the lines have not been drawn clearly just yet, which confronts filmmakers with new playgrounds as well as new challenges. It remains to be fully explored how these spaces can be creatively treated in order to follow a documentary pursuit. For audiences, these technologies certainly create new experiences in the way they isolate them in their viewing engagements but also allow them to ignore where they are meant to be looking.
The second session of the day centered on a show and tell by Christine Rogers. In her short experimental film Belong / not, she explores how the unknowability, gaps and fractures of her Maori past might be evoked through an autoethnographic video practice. In the discussion following the screening, comments involved the notion of stitching images together and juxtaposing different layers as a possible way to open up ambiguities and associations. However, it was also noted that i-docs and particularly Korsakow would be well suited to build collections of fragmented, incomplete narratives. Not only would this form allow a linking of different types of materials. It would also draw attention to the gaps between the individual pieces.
The concluding session of the symposium featured a skype improvisation by Anna Wiehl and Daniel Fetzner from Germany who presented their work-in-progress Living through Illogic Logics. With the aim to stimulate dialogue between the different agents involved in OCD, Anna and Daniel found it useful to turn to Korsakow as a tool for representating the “controlled un-controllability” at work in this condition. The resulting dialogue within this specific ecology would not be based on explanation and cognitive understanding but on an “affective engagement” which focuses on processes rather than products. In this way, their project presentation highlighted the two key terms of the day and successfully brought the symposium to a close.
With the support of Craig Hight, the day concluded with the launch of Docuverse’s e-book anthology Docuverse: Approaches to Expanding Documentary. Providing a diverse range of perspectives on the expanded documentary field, the e-book includes chapters from Adrian Miles, Max Schleser, Gerda Cammaer, John Hughes, Karelle Arsenault, and Liz Burke. In his laudatory speech, Craig particularly highlighted the importance of Docuverse as a forum for stimulating critical reflection on practice, thinking through practice and sharing the lessons learnt from that investigation with a wider community of research-practitioners in the expanding field of documentary. A digital copy of the ebook can be accessed online at https://zenodo.org/record/1211520#.WswQmNNubOQ.
Photographs by Nicholas Hansen and Hannah Brasier.