Politics of Truth V – On the Uncertainty of the Documentary (in conversation with Erika Balsom)


Date: 11.12.2018
Beginning: 18:00

You can find the recording of the Erika Balsom’s lecture and the discussion here.

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NG Trade Fair Palace, 3. FLOOR

The discussion aims to analyse how contemporary artists and filmmakers deal with the problematic ability of video to represent reality. The current debate, concerned with the “post truth world”, echoes the ambiguous boundary between fictional and factual reality that impacts the relation between the documentary image and the concept of truth.

Hence, we would like to pose following questions: How does documentary uncertainty impact upon the form and content of artworks? Are self-reflective strategies of the documentary image an effective answer to the crisis of reality? Can so-called observation strategies rebuild trust in the documentary image?

The event starts with a lecture by the British film theoretician Erika Balsom, followed by a debate with the documentarist and film theoretician Andrea Slováková and the moving-image artist Lucie Rosenfeldová. The discussion is hosted by the film theoretician and archivist Matěj Strnad.

In her essay, Reality-Based Community, from 2017, Erika Balsom outlines the development of documentary strategies in art since the 1990s, and how the observation mode amidst the self-reflecting streams of documentarism turned into something quite unacceptable. Balsom attempts to return legitimacy to observation strategies. One of the main motives in her thought is the question of whether it is not rather counter-productive – in this time of epistemological uncertainty, when the possibilities of sharing the truth are constantly challenged – to subvert the relationship with reality through artistic approaches. She poses the question of whether the turn to reality, the restoration of faith in the picture, and working with it without ostentatiously subversive maneuvering is perhaps a better solution to the crisis of the post-truth world, at least for the limited community of the art world.

8:00 pm, screening of the movie El Mar La Mar (2017, directors Joshua Bonnetta and J. P. Sniadecki)

The movie captures the landscape of the Sonoran desert, located on the U.S.-Mexico border. Long observational shots of nature taken on 16mm film by Joshua Bonnetta offer a meditation on the medium of moving-image, and are mixed with the documentary approach of J. P. Sniadecki, a collaborator with the Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab team. Authors engaged in this initiative focus on experimenting with the aesthetics of moving-image in relation to an ethnographic research. El Mar La Mar is anchored in this very approach, which allows viewers to immerse themselves in the unmerciful and highly politicized landscape.

Erika Balsom is a Senior Lecturer of Film Studies at King’s College London, focusing on the history of the moving image in art and experimental documentary practices. Her most recent book, After Uniqueness: A History of Film and Video Art in Circulation, was published by Columbia University Press in 2017. She is author of Exhibiting Cinema in Contemporary Art (2013), the co-editor of Documentary Across Disciplines (2016), and a frequent contributor to Artforum and Sight and Sound. Her work has appeared in publications such as Grey Room, e-flux, Cinema Journal, and numerous exhibition catalogues. In summer 2017, she was international film curator in residence at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre in New Zealand, and in 2018 her essay Instant Failure: Polaroid’s Polavision, 1977—80 was the winner of the Katherine Singer Kov.cs Essay Award from the Society for Cinema and Media Studies.

Lucie Rosenfeldová is an artist working with moving-image. She graduated from the sculpture studio of Dominik Lang and Edith Jeřábková at Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague. Her movie Concurrent Hopes (Souběžné naděje) received a special jury award at the Zlín Salon of Young in 2015. For her movie Polymind, she was awarded the top prize by an international jury in Other Visions competition at the Festival of Film Competition (PAF) in 2016. In her work, she often employs documentary strategies and reflects the specificity of the digital image.

Andrea Slováková graduated from Media Studies, from the Faculty of Social Sciences and from the Film Studies Department, from the Faculty of Philosophy and Arts at the Charles University in Prague. She worked in the management of Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival, where she is currently in charge of the experimental film section programme. She publishes articles on films in various magazines and was editor-in-chief of the anthology of texts on documentary called DO. Since 2008, he has been teaching history and methods of documentary film at the Masaryk University in Brno and occasionally in Prague and Olomouc. In her artistic work, she made a film portrait of Czech mathematician Petr Vopěnka Úmysl obohatit holý mechanistický svět, a film essay about supervision mechanisms In Sight (Nadohled) and an experimental film Recovering Industry (Rekonstrukce průmyslu).

Matěj Strnad is an archivist at the National Film Archive, where he coordinates a project of digital restoration of Czech film heritage. He studied at the Center for Audiovisual Studies at FAMU, Prague. He has been contributing to a number of Czech periodicals and delivered lectures on topics such as film technology, the archival dimensions of internet piracy and the role of traditional film medium in contemporary art. With Helena Bendová, he edited the anthology Společenské vědy a audiovize (2014).


The event is in English language.