Evidentiary to experiential: a poetic approach to documentary

AUT University
Publication Type:
Conference Proceeding
Expanding Documentary 2011: Proceedings of the VIIIth Biennial Conference, 2011
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At the edge of documentary practice, intersecting with territories of audio-visual media art, a poetic approach to documentary can work with aesthetic techniques to create spaces for pause and contemplation. However, debates around documentary aesthetics and the impact of formal choices upon issues of truthfulness and authenticity frequently results in the documentary value of poetic work being questioned. Fears of manipulation in the creation of beautiful truths, and the implied untrustworthiness of a poetic approach has seen ascetic responses such as direct cinema and observational practice favoured as tactics to maintaining authenticity. A tension between a desire for the real and a desire for the poetic is created. And yet, the two arent necessarily contradictory: desire for the real can extend, beyond faithful re-presentation of the world, into the domain of the senses and emotion. While there is a smooth, and often poetic, beauty in high definition renderings of the world, a low resolution, partial rendition can generate an affective yearning that appears to make use of the representational gaps in `poor quality material. When indexical and iconic bonds in relationships to the real are loosened through formal experimentation, alternative understandings of truth can come to the fore. The project can shift from the accretion of evidence to an exploration of experience and subjectivity. Through analysis of two projects that work in the borderlands between art and documentary this paper explores the possibilities of aesthetic experience as a means to explore concepts and forge audience connections within a documentary framework. Using examples from my own creative practice I consider the implications of applying techniques of visual abstraction, experimental soundtrack and fragmented editing in works that adopt a poetic approach to documentary.
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