The documentary node of nonfictionLab is interested in making, researching, critiquing, and extending the possibilities of audio visual nonfiction practice. It includes interest in how they essay as a form and style can be applied across other media, and the ways in which recording media intersect with creative and critical forms of nonfiction practice.
The first bi-monthly Snapshots event for 2017 was presented by Pat Aufderheide a 2017 Fulbright Senior Fellow at Queensland University of Technology, and University Professor of Communication Studies in the School of Communication at American University in Washington, D.C.
Pat began her talk in participatory fashion by teasing out the audiences’ interests for being there, this nicely set up the concluding discussion.
Of particular interest to the Docuverse group is Pat’s research on the question of, ‘How can journalism and documentary benefit from an area in which practices overlap and how can makers stay safer while telling truth to power?’
Part of Pat’s research has involved conducting an online survey. The online survey research aimed to gain a ‘better understanding of Australian copyright benefits to creatives’. Pat has been extensively interviewing people who do controversial documentary and journalism, to find out what limits their work. The study is based on the ways exceptions of fair use are treated in USA, where documentary filmmakers were more effectively allowed to utilise fair use provisions in the law and save on production costs.
Pat was principal investigator on The Center for Media and Social Impact‘s study entitled “Dangerous Documentaries: Reducing Risk when Telling Truth to Power”. Taking the premise that non-fiction filmmakers who tell truth to power often face aggressive attack from powerful individuals, governmental bodies, businesses and associations. The primary ‘blowback threat’ Pat refers to are the ways journalists and filmmakers are either facing or avoiding major litigation when utilising third party media. The study asked, how are independent makers, often working outside of media institutions for long periods of time, and sometimes untrained in journalistic practices, working with this reality?
The problem emerged, as USA law has fair use provisions, but Australian law does not, yet Australian filmmakers can claim under fair dealing provisions. Pat commented, one of the major issues was that Australian law has too few provisions in place, for courts to work into grey areas of law.
Pat believes there is a lack of exploration of the mutual areas of overlap between journalism and documentary skills and practices. The study recommends these areas would be great together, but asks what institutional support do they have and can some of that support become more mutualised.
On the topic of dilemmas faced by local journalists balancing safety with speaking truth to power, Pat was interested in drawing on Docuverse’s own Nicholas Hansen’s experience producing the documentary Breaking the News and in particular how local journalist Jose Belo balanced the pressure of his investigative reporting for local and foreign news crews. In response, Nicholas mentioned how he chose to highlight the legal dangers and potential arrest Jose was facing, for contacting rebel sources and giving them a voice in the aftermath of the 2008 shooting of Jose Ramos Horta.
The ensuing discussion attended to many participants’ questions and teased out the topics of activism and journalism and ways of being both truthful and subjective in journalism whilst facing the issue of telling people one thing over another.
Study: Dangerous Documentaries: Reducing Risk when Telling Truth to Power
Blog post: https://cmsimpact.org/social-impact/documentaries-telling-truth-to-power/
Photos by Nicholas Hansen
Image from (RMIT news article) ‘Media Students feature in Anzac Exhibition’.
Undergraduate students in the RMIT Media program were selected to screen by Maroondah City Council’s ArtSpace. The making of the works was facilitated by the studio lead Dr Seth keen with specialist support from Hannah Braiser, both in the non-fiction lab research group. From a research perspective an example of taking interactive documentaries into the the gallery space.
See if you can get along to see k-films (interactive documentaries made with Korsakow software) working in a gallery space (On until Sunday 21 May 2017). Some are on computers and one which is projected large on autoplay has been getting a lot of attention from young an old.
On Friday 10th 2017, Hannah Brasier, Nicholas Hansen, Kim Munro and Franziska Weidle hosted their second Docuverse Symposium at RMIT University in collaboration with non/fictionLab. After a successful series of bi-monthly events in 2016 showcasing and discussing interactive, participatory, performative and installation work, this year’s symposium addressed central issues that had emerged from interrogating the role of new technologies, practices and projects in expanding documentary within virtual as well as physical spaces.
Featuring ten invited speakers and about 45 conference attendees, the one-day event kicked off with a presentation by Dr. Craig Hight, Associate Professor in Creative Industries at the University of Newcastle. Craig’s talk focused on software as a possible entry point towards understanding and theorizing technologies and the dialectical relationship with their usages. As a conceptual framework underlying emergent practices and paradigms, his talk highlighted how documentary experiences were increasingly created through performances of (interactive) softwareand that applications and tools such as Korsakow and Racontr should be examined closely in terms of their affordances and how these are organized.
The following talks by Georgia Wallace-Crabbe and Liz Burke then provided examples of different media and platforms and what they might bring to the ways documentary topics could be approached and represented. While in some cases, technology appeared to be not advanced enough and analogue workarounds had to be utilized for creating interactivity and immersion through testing and prototyping, others highlighted how the spontaneous, accidental and provisional of playing with low-tech on-hand equipment and tools marked an exciting diversion from more traditional film-making processes. The morning session concluded with a workshop by Helen Gaynor in which she explored new strategies of directing in an entertaining hands-on experiment with the audience.
After a provided lunch break, the afternoon session kicked off with a work-in-progress presentation from filmmaker and MINA co-founder Dr. Max Schleser and Associate Professor of Documentary Media at Ryerson University Dr. Gerda Cammaer who skyped in from Canada. Their Viewfinders project illustrates how peer-generated travelling shots combined with AR image recognition could create an interesting new relationship between content and viewers supporting a sense of greater geographical imagination and connectedness.
The preceding project presentations by Allison Nankivell and Ella Colley further elaborated on the challenges and chances arising from participatory and collaborative approaches. The day concluded with a workshop led by Dr. Paola Bilbrough and Dr. Alison Baker from Victoria University in Melbourne who took up the collaborative theme again and scrutinized it in terms of its ethical dimension in cross-cultural contexts. One of the main aspects they pointed out was the importance but also limitations of reciprocity as a basis for co-composing the tellings and retellings of other people’s stories. On top of the two workshop sessions, Docuverse also invited the audience to actively engage in ongoing discussions throughout the day by contributing their thoughts as well as emerging themes in a collective brainstorming attempt on the whiteboard.
From itsinception in February 2016, Docuverse has steadily developed as an open, accessible and participatory space for discussing documentary theory and practice outside of a mainstream industry focus. With interstate visitors from Perth, Sydney, Canberra and Newcastle this year’s Docuverse Symposium not only covered a wide spectrum of backgrounds and approaches but also clearly demonstrated the need of connecting people interested in the expanding field of documentary in Australia. Taking up some of the symposium’s key themes around the connection of new (and old) technologies and documentary practices, user participation and audience engagement in our Snapshots series will be among the main points of our agenda this year.
How are new technologies, practices and projects expanding documentary?
After the success of our symposium in February 2016, Docuverse will be hosting a further annual event on the 10th of February, 2017. The event will be taking place in Building 80 (room TBC) at RMIT University, in Melbourne, Australia.
From our symposium in February 2016, Docuverse has grown as a forum for discussing the intersection between theory, practice and industry, in the expanded field of documentary. Bi-monthly events have included work-in-progress expanded documentary projects, talks by Judith Aston (i-Docs), Deane Williams (Studies in Documentary Film Journal) and Gerda Cammaer (Canadian academic/filmmaker). As well as an in-conversation between Adrian Miles (RMIT’s non/fictionLab) and ACMI’s Seb Chan.
To kick things off for 2017, we will be hosting a one-day symposium to workshop, share, discuss, and critique the role of new technologies through an array of expanded documentary practices. The day will consist of theoretical inputs, show and tells as well as hands-on workshops aimed to convey multiple and varying perspectives on how academics and practitioners are theorising and making expanded documentary projects. The themes covered on the day will include: multiscreen installation, participatory documentary, smartphone filmmaking, nonlinear viewing experiences, software studies, interactive documentary for social causes, documentary ethics, transmedia documentary, and directing documentary.
We are happy to announce that Associate Professor Craig Hight (University of Newcastle) will be giving a talk on how documentary tools and platforms can empower or discipline new forms of creation. And Dr Max Schleser (Swinburne University) and Dr Gerda Cammaer (Ryerson University) will be discussing their practice-led research project Viewfinders which aims to map travel experiences through smartphone filmmaking, interactive nonlinear filming experiences, and mobile AR.
We invite you to join Docuverse for this one-day symposium to think about how these new technologies, practices, and projects expand what documentary is and can be.
A full list of who will be presenting and a schedule for the day will be provided in late December.
This is a free Symposium, although please RSVP via eventbrite by the 3rd of February.
More details soon…
Image above: InTransit
“Don’t bend, don’t water it down, don’t try to make it logical, don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions logically”
– Franz Kafka
In a spare few hours between the Sightlines conference and the MINA symposium in Melbourne, visiting scholar and filmmaker Gerda Cammaer found time to give an enlivening talk about her practice at a surprise Docuverse event. Born in Beligium, but living and working in Toronto, Gerda opened her discussion of celluloid filmmaking, flaneuring and immersive film practices enabled by portable technology, with the above quote by Kafka. The theme of obsessions traversed Gerda’s talk; covering her work using found footage, home movies, travel filmmaking and education.
Earlier in the day at Sightlines, Gerda had presented her immersive travel film Mobilarte to a great response. In this film, the affordances of the iPad had been enhanced in postproduction with music and sound design techniques to give the feeling of what it’s like to ride in a Tuk Tuk in Mozambique. The materiality of this practice called to mind some of the Sensory Ethnography Lab films, with their attempts to translate specific experiences of the world through filmic techniques.
Gerda talked about the concept of the modern day flaneurse, a female imagining of Baudelaire’s concept of the flaneur. Gerda quoted documentary theorist Trinh T. Minh-ha “to be in touch with the ordinary in non-ordinary ways so that it can become something extra-ordinary frame”. I think this idea especially resonated in Gerda’s work which used vernacular material she had captured as well as archival and found footage, reframing it to allow critical ways of seeing and thinking about documentary within a contemporary context.
Gerda also shared some insights into travel filming and generational differences. While older people were more inclined to point the camera outwards, millenials tended towards positioning themselves foremost in the frame- selfie style. Informed by discussions with her students, Gerda presented a critical motivation for this framing, stemming from her students’ deep anxieties with their place in the world, and the belief that their presence is the only evidence that they were really there. Something to think about anyway.
The discussion of travel filmmaking tied in with Gerda’s introduction to her current project, Viewfinders, a collaborative project with Swinburne University’s Max Schleser. This project will be presented at the Docuverse Symposium on February 10th, 2017.
This was a great way to end the series of Docuverse events for 2016, with a talk that perfectly encapsulated some of our key aims; a discussion of practice and theory that is both connected to historical documentary as well as reaching forward into emergent territories, processes and ways of thinking in the 21st century. We look forward to further expanding the Docuverse in 2017.
Last Friday in the UWH the ‘idoc tool design workshop’ was completed by a small but enthusiastic group of collaborators, who stayed the distance by eating the entire pumpkin tea loaf cooked for the occasion – (for those who requested the recipe I found this online).
The workshop followed a couple of steps in the short timeframe. Bhu the programmer and interaction designer provided a brief overview of his work, including the Feral Arts, Placestories and Inkahoots, Open Song projects. Next the workshop participants (idoc makers/producers) presented a work they had made and the behind the scenes production workflow used to work with their chosen idoc tool. The discussions focused on the likes and dislikes of these different tools, which tended to be mainly Korsakow and Klynt. These presentations culminated in a wishlist of design ideas in a post-it note brainstorm session.
The workshop with a strong focus on the software used to make an idoc, pointed out for me how little we look closely at the behind the scenes making of these works. It was useful to analyse the software in some depth in relation to historical connections and influences, along with the main motivations of the designers in regards to the types of practices they aim to support.
Thanks to all those who participated and provided valuable input towards beginning to scope the open source design. The next stage is to collate the findings from the workshop to inform some design concepts, with the aim to report back in the upcoming 2017 Docuverse symposium.
From RMIT News: A radiophonic meditation on gender identity and storytelling set in Bangkok has won multiple awards.
Making Up: 11 Scenes from a Bangkok Hotelis a radiophonic essay/feature about sexual and textual identity and the act of ‘making up’.
The essay was co-produced by creative nonfiction writer Associate Professor David Carlin and audio feature maker and sound designer Kyla Brettle with additional support from RMIT’s non/fictionLab.
Set in an international city at the crossroads of many flight-paths, the work interweaves an essay dramatising the mindscape of a Western ‘author’, with documentary-style representations of young Asian voices from the transgender community.
Carlin and Brettle collaborated to make an engaging and immersive audio experience that also critiques some of the tropes and conventions of narrative voice.
The work was commissioned by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Radio National’s (RN) Creative Audio Unit, Australia’s leading broadcast space for audio art and premiered on RN’s Soundproof program to a national audience in December 2015.
The program has since won four categories at the 2016 New York festival (NYF) radio awards, two Gold awards for Best Sound and Best Writing and two Silver awards for Best Direction and Best Documentary (Arts and Culture).
NYF’s international radio program awards for the world’s best radio programs honours radio programming and promotions in all lengths and formats from radio stations, networks and independent producers from around the globe.
Carlin, who is Deputy Dean (Communication) in the School of Media and Communication said it is wonderful to receive this international recognition for our work and to have it judged alongside innovative radio works from around the world.
“We started with my essay, to which Kyla was able to add a whole other layer of sonic texture and meaning when we developed this radio version for the ABC, collaborating both with actors Pamela Rabe and David Woods and members of the Asia-Pacific Transgender Network,” Carlin said.
Brettle, who lectures in the Bachelor of Communication (Media) said that she looks for stories that unfold organically via events that can be followed through incidental conversation and location sound – and tries to avoid narration and long formal interviews.
“I’m interested in the visceral and spatial properties of sound and how these can be used to make the listener feel like they are at the centre of an experience or a three-dimensional space.”
“I wanted to juxtapose the essay scenes with the voices and stories of real people, specifically transgender men and women living in Bangkok, for whom the exploration of sexual identity is more than a folly performed in a liminal space,” Brettle said.
Eleven Scenes has been described by leading US documentary-maker and scholar Michael Rabiger as ‘a superb piece of work, the kind of spiralling, multi-layered consciousness one hopes to light upon, and that is so enjoyably challenging compared with 99% of radio.’
RN’s Creative Audio unit has also selected the show to enter into the Palma Ars Acoustica, organized by the Euroradio Ars Acustica Group which only EBU member broadcasters can enter.
Making Up: eleven scenes from a Bangkok Hotel can be downloaded from the ABC website.
Story: Wendy Little
As part of their Snapshots bi-monthly forum, Docuverse presents a talk by visiting Canadian academic/filmmaker Gerda Cammaer.
Modern day flaneuse
Discussing various film and research projects she has worked on, Gerda will expose how her artistic and scholarly career is that of a flaneur, marked, as Baudelaire would say, by being “away from home, and yet to feel at home; to behold the world, to be in the midst of the world and yet to remain hidden from the world.” A consistent theme in her work has been time and the experience of time, and by extension the linear and non-linear possibilities of different moving image media. Although most people would qualify her work as experimental films, they are all grounded in reality and are essentially explorations of the poetic potential of documentary. Paraphrasing Trinh T. Minh-ha, she aims to be in touch with the ordinary in non-ordinary ways so that it can become something extra-ordinary in an ordinary frame. Gerda is currently working on several new projects – such as Viewfinders, an international collaborative project with Dr. Max Schleser that looks specifically at the impact of small portable camera devices such as smartphones on travel experiences and on mobile creativity.
About Gerda Cammaer
Gerda Cammaer is a film scholar, curator, and filmmaker. As a scholar and a maker she specializes in experimental and documentary film, overlooked histories and small media. Her PhD thesis (completed in 2010) included a major film/video project that built upon her passion for collage film, documentary and new narratives. Her current research focuses on the revival of microcinema and their lineage with historical forms of amateur short films and videos, focussing particularly on travel films. She has published articles on a variety of subjects, she is the co-editor of Cinephemera: Archives, Ephemeral Cinema, and New Screen Histories in Canada (McGill University Press, Fall 2014) and the co-writer of Forbidden Love (Arsenal Pulp Press, Fall 2015). She curated multiple experimental film and video programs, has been a jury member and co-programmer of the Mobile Innovation Network Aotearoa (MINA) screenings founded by Max Schleser, and she is the co-founder of the international Moving Image Arts short film festival at Ryerson University. Her own films and videos have played at various festivals in Canada and worldwide. She is Associate Professor at the School of Image Arts of Ryerson University in Toronto, where she teaches in the film program (BA), the Film and Photography Preservation and Collections Management Program (MA) and in Documentary Media (MFA). She is also the co-director of the Documentary Media Research Centre (DMRC), located in the School of Image Arts. She is the recipient of a Faculty Scholarly, Research and Creative Activity award in 2013 and the Outstanding Contribution to Graduate Education award in 2016.
Please join us in the non/fictionLab’s Urban Writing House (rear of RMIT’s Building 80, access via Stewart st) on Tuesday the 29th of November from 6pm-7:30pm for Gerda’s talk.
Limited spaces so please RSVP via eventbrite
Adrian Miles convened a panel at Visible Evidence XXII (2015, Toronto) around interactive documentary aesthetics. The format required each member to provide ten slides that would be on screen for thirty seconds in advance, so we each spoke for five minutes then opened it to discussion from the audience and amongst each other. (It was lively, to say the least.)
Following the panel I thought it would be of value to document it, semi-formally, if only so that some of the propositions could continue doing their work for others. It was also a sketch toward thinking about how to make the ephemeral of something like a panel discussion less so. So I curated the slides, and got the text of our talks, and built a small iBook pamphlet.
Screenworks (University of Bristol) thought about it, talked about it, and have published it not as peer reviewed (I certainly agree that it doesn’t have the necessary scale and detail to be viable for peer review) but as, in its own turn, another provocation to screen media research. This is good because it is this poking our academic habits that is one of the aims of the panel (young and established scholars, slides in advance, 5 minutes each only), and the iBook.
Docuverse’s final Snapshots event for 2016 saw the non/fictionLab’s co-director Adrian Miles take Seb Chan through his extensive experiences with the GLAM (Galleries, libraries, archives and museums) sector from Sydney’s Powerhouse, through to reinventing New York’s Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, to his new role as Chief Experience Officer at ACMI. For “Museums are Documentary Spaces” we saw a full Urban Writing House and an engaging conversation between Adrian and Seb, with questions following. The informal conversation between Adrian and Seb moved through the trajectory of Seb’s positions at the Powerhouse, Smithsonian Design Museum and ACMI. Throughout his positions an impulse in Seb’s work is turning museums into immersive experiences which exceed the physicality of the museum into the digital, where visitors can continue their experience. This immersive thread running through Seb’s work is informed by a background in music where he sees the DJ as “creating an environment where people are open to other experiences.”
So, the first question posed by Adrian to Seb revolved around his role at Sydney’s Powerhouse. Here, Seb was attempting to see whether museums could be like a party, where he worked on: creating museum experiences that extend into the world, early augmented reality and mobile works, and the digitalising of collections online. What Seb learnt through this position was that it was difficult to take the museum into the world as there are so many other things competing for our attention. From this difficulty he realised that what was unique to museums was “people have already dedicated time to them…so it’s up to the museum to make use of that time the visitors have given them in the best way.”
When Seb was given the opportunity to rebuild and reinvent the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York his attitude had shifted from taking the museum into the world to “building a system for people that changed the way the museum was experienced inside that building.” With the Smithsonian shut down Seb was given 3 years to imagine and develop a new museum that “pointed towards the digital moment.” Through his role as Director of Digital and Emerging Media he developed a pen which could be used as a “magic wand” for guests to immerse themselves within the museum. This pen allows visitors to: draw design items on interactive tables that search the museum’s database, 3D model items, save things, and design wallpapers that then get projected on the walls around you.
As Seb explained, the pen allowed visitors to become “designers” alongside the design objects within the museum. Once the visitors have left the museum they can access everything they’d drawn, saved, and designed with the pen, online to further their design experiences back home. Seb’s major achievement with the Smithsonian Design Museum was a transformation from a place “where you go and look at stuff” into a place that allowed visitor’s to see themselves and their creations alongside other things, and beyond a one-off experience. In providing visitors with a “magic wand” in the physical space and digital access later on, allows the museum to become an interwoven digital and physical platform for design.
Now, as ACMI’s Chief Experience Officer Seb is faced with a new set of challenges that look to what ACMI can provide as a physical space for moving images; when so much moving image content can be experienced easily online. His role at ACMI is developing a form of spatial storytelling that creates parallel narratives throughout the cinemas, exhibitions, and digital apps.
Seb’s telling of his trajectory through each of his GLAM sector positions was impressive and inspiring. Especially in his tackling of the specific challenges each museum posed with inventive ideas that see the digital and physical spaces co-exist in a way that generates an immersive experience for the visitor.
Adrian finished the conversation by proposing that Seb’s trajectory provides a proposition for expanded documentary:
What is really interesting across the history that Seb has described is this movement from what I think of as an artefact centred practice towards an experience orientated practice…Documentary is still very much artefact driven, even though it has social agendas and experiential things there’s still this very strong artefactual basis to the practice. This move towards experiential media is a really interesting proposition to start thinking about what the work of the artefacts and its surrounding ecology of stuff might start to be.
Seb and Adrian’s conversation was the most successful Docuverse Snapshots event of the year in terms of audience members, where the questions from the audience centred upon the role of museums, making interactive documentaries immersive, and how museums should present the process in which something was made as opposed to simply the completed artefact.
Photos by Docuverse’s Nicholas Hansen.
DOCUVERSE 2017 – INTEGRATING NEW TECHNOLOGIES
CALL FOR PROPOSALS
After the success of their Symposium in February 2016, Docuverse will be hosting a further annual event on the 10th of February, 2017. The event will be taking place at RMIT University, in Melbourne, Australia.
From their symposium in February 2016, Docuverse has grown as a forum for discussing the intersection between theory, practice and industry, in the expanded field of documentary. Bi-monthly events have included work-in-progress expanded documentary projects, talks by Judith Aston (i-Docs) and Deane Williams (Studies in Documentary Film Journal), and an in-conversation between Adrian Miles (RMIT’s non/fictionLab) and ACMI’s Seb Chan (forthcoming, Oct 2016).
For 2017 we will continue to discuss, share, and create a community around expanded documentary practices, including:
-documentary as installation
and explore how these practices challenge what documentary can be and do.
To kick things off for 2017, Docuverse will be hosting a one-day event to workshop, share, discuss, and critique the role of new technologies in the creation of expanded documentary projects. The questions we are asking are:
-What is the potential of new technology in expanding documentary practices?
-What are the limitations of these new technologies to documentary?
-How do we become proficient (enough) to integrate new technologies into our current documentary practices?
-What documentary topics or forms are best oriented towards different technologies?
For this event, we will be tackling these questions through the array of practices that make up the expanded documentary field. So, we are calling for people that:
-Have made an expanded documentary project that they could show and discuss
-Are making a project they would like specific feedback on
-Could host a workshop/discussion/critique
As Docuverse is about creating a community around expanded documentary practices, we will be preferencing proposals that steer towards creating a discussion, as opposed to straight academic papers. Preference will also be given to proposals from people who will be able to attend Docuverse 2017 in Melbourne.
If you have an expanded documentary project you would like to show, or a workshop/discussion/critique proposal please send us a few sentences about your work or idea accompanied with a short description of how you would like to present it on the day. These proposals should not be longer than 150 words.
Please email proposals to Kim at firstname.lastname@example.org by November 20th, 2016.
Hannah Brasier (RMIT University)
Nicholas Hansen (RMIT University)
Kim Munro (RMIT University)
Franziska Weidle (University of Göttingen)
Docuverse is supported by RMIT’s non/fictionLab
As part of their Snapshots bi-monthly forum, Docuverse presents ACMI’s Chief Experience Officer, Seb Chan, in a broad ranging discussion with Adrian Miles from RMIT’s non/fictionLab.
Please join us on the 13th of October for drinks and snacks for what will be an interesting discussion.
Event is free, however spaces are limited, so please RSVP via our Eventbrite.
The 25th August Docuverse event Snapshots#3 took on a reflective tone with our guests Deane Williams, Grace Russell and Stella Barber introducing an Australian Research Council funded collaborative research project: The Cinema Within: National and Transnational Concerns of ‘Utilitarian Filmmaking’ in Australia 1945 – 1980.
‘While Australian cinema is generally defined by the feature filmmaking tradition, at least since the 1970s, ‘utilitarian filmmaking’ represents a significant but barely visible portion of screen culture in Australia.’
Deane Williams introduced this project which runs across the University of Canberra, Murdoch University and Monash University. The project has attached PHD positions, including those held by Grace Russell and Stella Barber.
Deane talked about the mechanics of collaboration between the key researchers, including John Hughes, Ruby Arrowsmith-Todd, Mick Broderick and Ross Gibson. This research delves into a range of archives including the Teasedale Collection from a Western Victorian farming family, Policing and forensics films, road safety films and Woomera nuclear and military footage from the period to reveal ‘new insights into post-war Australia’.
Deane discussed how a definition of the ‘Utilitarian’ film would differ from understandings of the Industrial film form. Part of the project is in narrowing that definition of Utilitarian, outlined as ‘‘client-sponsored, instructional and governmental filmmaking existing outside the conventional theatrical contexts by which cinema is usually defined“.
Deane’s presentation was followed by a screening of “HELLO, MR. WEBB”, ‘an Agrifilm Production’ produced by the Department of Agriculture Victoria (circa 1980). This tongue in cheek film detailed the role and resources of the Film Unit within the department of Agriculture. The film’s host Donald Ewart spoke directly down the lens to their agricultural constituents a suitably reflexive utilitarian film example for this documentary audience.
Stella Barber and Grace Russell then introduced their respective archival interests, their methodologies for gleaning research and their negotiation of any challenges to accessing sensitive archival materials. Apart from their individual approaches to trawling through many hours of archival footage, Stella and Grace reflected on discovering their specific interests in part through the act of spending significant time with the archival material. Outcomes of the project will include articles, chapters, conference exhibition screening session, audio-visual essays and a book.
Following the presentations discussion turned to approaches to wading through many hours of archival material, to discover the significant in what could appear mundane. From insights into daily life, social customs, attitudes of the time and other incidental details garnered from looking around the film frame.
These presentations outlined the early stages of a research project of significant scale, which helps to define a little-known area of Australian film history.
The mid October Snapshots#4 will see Sebastian Chan, Chief Experience Officer (CXO) at ACMI, in discussion with Adrian Miles. Booking details will be posted on the Docuverse Facebook page.
Docuverse is supported by RMIT’s non/fictionLab
Docuverse’s Hannah Brasier, Kim Munro and Franziska Weidle all presented at the Visible Evidence conference in Bozeman, Montana on the 14th of August. Hannah and Franziska talked on the same panel on emerging forms of documentary where an interesting discussion followed on how we should describe and think about emerging forms in relation to traditional documentary. Here is a little summary of their panel:
After three intense days of conferencing, Hannah Brasier and Franziska Weidle’s joint panel on “Interactivity and Emerging Documentary Platforms” enjoyed great popularity, counting about 20 people in the audience. The panel’s chair, Heather McIntosh from Minnesota State University, opened the floor by sharing her observations on the physicality of interactivity as one of the distinguishing aspects of i-Docs on iPads. Franziska Weidle followed Heather to demonstrate how skilled practices surrounding new media affordances might lead to a “reschooling of the eye” that challenges other, more established, documentary enskilments and related cognitive processes. Providing insights into the empirical data gathered during her research stay at the non/fictionLab, her talk perfectly set the scene for Hannah Brasier to talk about how she is developing an aesthetics of noticing for making interactive documentaries. Hannah focused on the process of making through noticing, listing, filming, and arranging, to speculate on an interactive documentay practice that attunes to the things of the world in their flowing arrangements. Overall, the “Interactivity and Emerging Documentary Platforms” panel provided a space within the Visible Evidence program to critically discuss digital forms of documentary from theoretical and practice perspectives.
For the discussion that followed the panel presentations, audience members pointed out that while making interactive documentaries is certainly interesting for makers, Jennifer Proctor pointed to Korsakow’s lack of appeal to audiences and its unresolved tension between linear video fragments and the nonlinear environment they are embedded in. Dorit Naaman commented on viewers’ desire for emotional stability and raised the question of how this might translate into multilinear networked environments. Further, there was general discussion about how we should talk about these types of interactive documentaries. While Hannah discussed her interactive documentaries as musical, others from the audience considered the works more live video games. This discussion led Franziska and Hannah to hear new perspectives about their research to incorporate into their PhDs.
Visible Evidence (VE) is the international conference for documentary film and media, that takes place annually in different countries around the world. Docuverse’s Hannah, Franziska, and Kim, are all presenting this year at the conference at Montana State University in Bozeman, MT.
Today, we held a pre-conference meetup at a cafe in downtown Bozeman to meet people attending the conference interested in expanded and interactive documentary. We all shared our research topics and interests in expanded documentary forms and the certain challenges we face as practice based researchers within this space. We covered a broad range of topics including software, funding, technology, content, form, and process. Further, we talked more broadly about practice based research giving international perspectives on expectations, methodologies, and the relationship between the creative and theory.
Overall, it was nice to sit down and have a chat over juices and coffee as a gentle warm up into the four day conference which begins tomorrow.
As part of their Snapshots bi-monthly forum, Docuverse presents a talk by local Melbourne documentary academic, Deane Williams. Deane will be joined by Grace Russell and Stella Barber to discuss their collaborative research project around Australian utilitarian films.
Please join us for this talk, with drinks and snacks provided.
The Cinema Within: National and Transnational Concerns of ‘Utilitarian Filmmaking’ in Australia 1945 – 1980.
This paper will focus on the manner in which ‘utilitarian cinema’ operates in relation to conceptions of Australian national cinema as well as to how this term can also contribute to formulations of transnational cinema. It will introduce the preliminary findings of this Australian Research Council funded research project being conducted by Ruby Arrowsmith-Todd, Mick Broderick, Ross Gibson, John Hughes, Stella Barber and Deane williams as well as introducing some of the case studies being undertaken: Policing and forensics films, Woomera nuclear and military footage, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Safety films and the Shell Film Unit in Australia.
For more information and bookings:
Hannah and Kim are HDR candidates in the School of Media and Communication, members of the non/fictionLab, and collaborators on the Docuverse project.
Voicing the Alone: polyvocality and cartography in the expanded field of documentary
“Can we cohabitate with you? Is there a way for all of us to survive together while none of our contradictory claims, interests and passions can be eliminated?” (Bruno Latour)
The concept of voice has long been discussed in documentary, with its equations to authorship, participation, form and style. However, the traditional linear documentary form often produces a voice that is fixed, singular and causal, thereby restricting a broader cartography of a topic.
With a movement towards more experimental, interdisciplinary, non-linear and participatory forms, other conceptions of voice are better enacted. This polyvocality allows multiple inflections of themes, ideas and stories as well as the translation of voices that might be conflicting, confusing, quiet or dissenting. It also allows for a rethinking of our social relations through Latour’s idea of cohabitation.
Drawing on my own reflective practice as a researcher and filmmaker, and my current interdisciplinary work The Alone Project, I will examine how other voices might coexist through various approaches to form and participation.
This practice allows the multiple inflections on the theme of aloneness, from the euphemistic to the dysphemistic, from the positive associations to the feared. It also explores aloneness and how it relates to how we live in the world, together or not, the difficulties of communication, the attempts at connection, the performance of the self and relationships to people and things.
In this presentation, I will discuss how a polyvocal approach to documentary matters through its engagement with multiplicity and rethinking of the relation between self and other.
Negotiating Mess: A Multilinear Approach to Aesthetic Noticing for Interactive Documentary
Restlessness, palm trees, grey buildings, suburban landscapes, blue sky backdrop, pinkness, traffic jammed highway, six months of winter. As I walk to University I am simultaneously noticing, thinking, walking, breathing, and listening. My practice uses listing as an approach to make interactive documentaries that attempt to negotiate the messiness of the everyday. Mess considered as, from the Oxford dictionary, a situation or person “that is confused and full of problems.” The world is messy because it is full of coexisting confusions and problems that are impossible to understand or solve. If linear documentaries corral footage into a story, with a beginning, middle, and end, do multilinear documentaries bring us closer to negotiating the rhythms of mess?
John Law, Ross Gibson, and Lev Manovich from the contexts of social science, arts practice and new media respectively, variously describe the world as messy. Law describes the world as “slippery, indistinct, elusive, complex, diffuse, messy, textured, vague, unspecific, confused, disordered, emotional, painful, [and] pleasurable”. Gibson suggests “complexity defines everyday experience evermore emphatically in our globalizing economies”. Manovich considers the world as “an endless and unstructured collection of images, texts and other data records”. A multilinear approach to interactive documentary appears to engage with the messiness of the world. As Gibson notes interactive works “matter because they give us a chance to sense directly how complexity works”.
Using the Korsakow authoring software I have developed a multilinear approach to documentary which takes noticing and listing as methods to allow multiple, simultaneous relationships between interconnected video parts. For this talk I will use an interactive documentary I have made to discuss how my approach to multilinearity may give us a sense of complexity. I will provide a way to make interactive documentaries that comes close to engaging with the messiness of experience.
We are encouraging people to come along, give feedback, and listen in on some work that is happening in the field of expanded documentary within the non/fictionLab.
These talks will be taking place in the Honours Lab in Building 9, at RMIT.
Building 9, level 2, room 6.
Thursday 28th of July
This week Docuverse presented at the ASPERA annual conference at the University of Canberra. Nicholas Hansen, Kim Munro, and I attended the conference to talk about what Docuverse is, where the group emerged from, the symposium, where the group currently is in terms of our Snapshot events, and the future challenges we face.
Kim, started the talk by discussing where the idea for Docuverse emerged from. She noted that if there is a local community of expanded documentary practitioners, it is disparate. It was from this climate that the original desire to initiate a forum to show and discuss creative works and practices arose. The original impetus for this event, or symposium, before the idea of an ongoing collective,was to show and discuss work. In some ways, there’s a paradox about the desire for a real-life forum to discuss largely online and screen-based works.
From Kim, Nicholas talked about the planning of the symposium. Nicholas discussed how in January the call for papers went out, with the aim to attract group members and speakers. We divided the symposium program into slots with time to address the areas of ‘interactive, participatory, installation, locative, ethnographic and essayist’ documentary. The aim was to reach out to ‘documentary filmmakers, media practitioners and artists’ with a mandate to discuss the intersection between theory, practice and industry.
Nicholas then talked on behalf of Franzi, who currently resides in Germany, on the Docuverse symposium itself, whereby four months after our initial brainstorming session, we held the inaugural Docuverse symposium at RMIT’s non/fictionLab. The program consisted of seven presentations encompassing a range of thematic focus areas. The day kicked off with talks by filmmakers John Hughes and Nick Moore who reflected on their transgressions into vertical cinema and the micro essay within their (research) practice. After several screenings, the Q&A focused on curatorial and practical aspects of vertical formats and the internet as a site for publication.
I finished the talk by discussing the successes of the two Snapshot events we have held; the work-in-progress screening and Judith Aston’s talk, in terms of engaging with a more general audience. This success of our Snapshot events is due to an informal setting, and our growing Facebook group, and our updates on the non/fictionLab website. Through our various networks we are reaching beyond our personal academic and practitioner communities. I then talked about the current challenges we face by asking how do we make Docuverse accessible and inclusive enough to generate conversation and participation from our audience? And secondly, when and if we get this level of engagement, what type of approach should we take to turn Docuverse into a space where people can show, workshop, make, and collaborate on expanded documentary projects? Our aim then for the future would be to turn Docuverse into a space which could produce expanded documentary works.
As expanded documentary practice is not taught across a majority of the ASPERA institutions we received encouraging engagement from our audience. The ASPERA community was interested in perhaps Docuverse coming to their institution to provide a workshop on expanded documentary practices.
Here are the slides from our presentation:
“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” Alan Kay
This week, nonfiction/Lab and Docuverse had the pleasure of a visit by UK interactive documentary academic and practitioner, Judith Aston. Judith is known for co-founding Bristol based i-Docs as well her writings and work in her multi-disciplinary immersive documentary practice.
On another wild and rainy Thursday evening, around 25 people gathered in RMIT’s Urban Writing House to hear Judith talk about the trajectory of her work and thirty year practice through the changing technologies, ‘intertwingled’ with her background in geography, anthropology, art practice and teaching. The topics in Judith’s talk ranged from her work with the original Apple computer and floppy discs to Tibetan monks and ideas of ‘reality’ to the value of multiple perspectives as more reflective of the complex world we inhabit.
Judith Aston discusses contributions of the i-Docs conference committee members.
Judith spoke about her interest in embodied experiences as a way to enliven interactive documentary and that these events will continue to be important in the networked future as ways for people to come together and share something. After a recent meeting with DERC’s Sarah Pink, Judith also elaborated upon Pink’s concept of ‘digital materiality’ and the combination of analogue and digital practices through emplacement, with a deep sensory connection to place. Judith concluded with thoughts on the current hype around VR, cautioning that this should not result in the abandonment of other mediums, and while digital forms have their place, the project and concept should also be connected to the kind of technology used.
On the Friday, Judith held a masterclass with 11 participants from a range of practices including digital ethnography, documentary film and photography, interactive design and gaming. Underlying this mood on the cold wintery Melbourne day was the shadow of the Brexit vote in the UK. As we discussed Rebecca Solnit’s reading about the paradises that may emerge from destruction, and the Brexit vote was declared, Judith hoped that there might be a call to positive action from this despairing situation. After discussing readings and issues around collaboration, human/computer interactions and documentary practices, five participants showed some works in progress for valuable feedback and conversation.
Throughout these sessions, Judith referred several times to a quote by Alan Kay, that “the best way to predict the future is to invent it”. This seemed like a positive theme through which to think about technology, documentary, practice and research as well as the current state of global crises and politics.
These sessions with Judith were really valuable and we hope to continue relations and exchanges between nonfiction/Lab, Docuverse and i-Docs in the future.
photos by Nicholas Hansen