Week 03, Wednesday  Nov 9. Topic: art’s  relationship with the document and documentary (seminar)

For week 3, we  use the seminar format so I ask you to post your thoughts to the blog and use this as your contribution to the seminar. Use your blog post as a place to raise questions about the material covered in the assigned readings and a place to raise different perspectives.

These responses will be the basis of our discussion in class.

etivity 1: the document in practice

Download the pdf  “documentary strategies” from week 2 page and read it before attending the session at Ambika P3.

Some of the concepts discussed in these three essays include:

  • documentarism in contemporary art
  • documentary visual arts
  • the documentary method
  • ethical dimension of documentarism
  • documentary evidence
  • documentation and archives
  • dialectical documents

posting: Use one or more of these concepts to analyse the work screened and debated in the programme Indian Arts on Film. After attending the session at Ambika P3, return to this blog and post  250-500 words on this topic. You can add a reflection on how you work with documents in your practice.

deadline: monday nov 7

commenting: read your colleagues posts and choose one to leave a comment by wednesday nov 9 at 2pm

for a short tutorial on how to get started with blogging refer to this post; if you are experiencing problems with posting to the blog, complete the etivity in word and i will help you to post it to the blog in class

Points for debate

-The readings for weeks 2 and 3 theorise the way artistic practices have, since the 1970s,  made reality and particular conceptions of reality into an issue for research and reflection.

-Conceptual photography, in particular,  has placed the photographic document at the centre of its concerns, as described by Steve Edwards in the text “Photography out of conceptual art.”

-The works of Martha Rosler, Victor Burgin, Cindy Sherman, Alan Sekula, Jeff Wall, amongst other artists referred in the texts,  ask: what is real and what is a culturally induced illusion? Is reality itself a product of our representations, either a subjective construct or the effect of culture?

-Alfredo Cramerotti, brands ‘aesthetic journalism,’ a particular form of knowledge production where artists ask crucial questions about the way photographic documents construct reality and the faith we have come to place in the truth of documents.

-Hito Steyerl call this ‘the uncertainty principle of modern documentarism’: “The more we try to pinpoint the essence of the documentary, the less we are able to comprehend. The reason is that the notions used to describe them are just as ill-defined as the pictures. Let us take an obvious example: the role of the documentary in the field of contemporary art. Talking about this is complicated by two facts. The first is that there is no viable definition of ‘documentary’. The second is that there is no viable definition of ‘art’ or even the ‘field of contemporary art’. And if we still want to reflect on the connection of both, we have to face the fact that we barely know what we are talking about. “

Additional reading for weeks 2 and 3

Cramerotti, A., 2009. Aesthetic Journalism How to Inform Without Informing. London: Intellect, pp 15-81. (Chapter 2: WHAT is Aesthetic Journalism?; Chapter 3: WHERE is Aesthetic Journalism? Chapter 5: HOW shall we Read Aesthetic Journalism?  )

[available as pdf: cramerotti-aesthetic Journalism]

Edwards, S., 2004. Photography Out of Conceptual Art. In: G. Perry and P. Wood eds. Themes in Contemporary Art. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, pp 137- 180.

[available as pdf: edwards-photo-out-of-conceptual-art]

Solomon-Godeau, A., 1991. Photography at the Dock. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. pp 169-183.

available as pdf: salomon-godeau-who-is-speaking-thus]

Nichols, B., 1991. Representing Reality. Issues and Concepts in Documentary. Bloomington : Indiana University Press.
The domain of documentary chapter 1 (pp 3- 31) Documentary modes of representation, chapter 2 (pp-75)

[available as pdf:nichols-the-domain-of-documentary ]

Steyerl, H.,2007. Documentary Uncertainty, A Prior 15, [online]Available at:

<http://www.aprior.org/apm15_steyerl_docu.htm> [Accessed 7 October 2010].


magazine work by Robert Smithson

Smithson, R., 1967.  A Tour of the Monuments of Passaic, New Jersey. Artforum, 6(4).

[available as pdf: smithson-a-tour-of-the-monuments-of-passaic]

book work by Alan Sekula

Sekula, A., 1995.  Fish story. Rotterdam: Witte de With.

[extracts available as pdf: sekula-fish-story ]

Ryan Gilbey The Guardian, Saturday 20 November 2010

Trust me, I’m a film-maker: the men behind Catfish come clean

About the seminar format:


Read a brief intro to the seminar format  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seminar <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seminar

Download and fill in this self-evaluation  form, for you to evaluate what you have contributed in seminars so far
and plan a strategy for improving your contributions


Here is  a step by step guide to speaking in seminars that may help you in future seminars.


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