Spaces of engagement–critical aesthetic practice, audience experience and the documentary-like work

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Studies in Documentary Film, 2022
Issue Date:
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Aesthetic choices and the experiences they create are fundamental to how documentary works establish their credentials and address their audiences.This paper focuses on the overlap between documentary and video art practice to explore the rhetorical possibilities of aesthetic experience. Applying a critical aesthetic practice, evident within artistic contexts, has the potential to encourage greater diversity in the stories that are told in documentaries, how they are told and how they might be heard. Through examination of the two-channel video installation, Disorient by Fiona Tan, the paper analyses how aesthetic choices operate as elements of a rhetorical strategy where the work is realised as an experience in itself, existing in the space of encounter between art object and spectator. I argue that the critical aesthetic practice evident in Disorient produces a circumstance where the audience encounters the rhetorical moves as much through the direct experience of the work as they do through puzzling over the indexical references that Tan raises and combines. As a two-channel video projection that is at a one-step remove from the form of cinematic documentary, Disorient is instructive in what may be possible when these strategies are applied to an artistically inclined, expanded documentary practice.
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