Object! On the Documentary as Art

  • Ben Balcom - Notes from the Interior

    Ben Balcom, Notes from the Interior, courtesy of the artist. 

Past Event

This event was on Sat 4 Feb 2017, 11.30am–6pm

This one-day symposium brings together filmmakers, artists and scholars to explore the aesthetic potential, political stakes and ethical challenges that arise from regarding documentary film as an art object. We will consider documentary as a commodity in circulation, a resource in artistic production, a material trace, a document, or simply as “a thing like you and me” (Hito Steyerl).

 Object! On the Documentary as Art aims to reframe the meeting point of films, makers and audiences in ethical terms. In light of the ongoing proliferation of documentary material in artistic production – the so-called ‘documentary turn’– and the exchange of these works in the marketplace as art objects, what are the ethical and political implications of this ‘object turn’ in documentary film? What novel avenues does it open up for critical practice?

The day of presentations includes screenings of artists’ films and documentaries, and is complemented by a series of evening programmes at Close Up Film Centre from Tuesday 7 February 2017.

Produced in collaboration with Sheffield Fringe, the event is organised by Minou Norouzi, Mihaela Brebenel and Nikolaus Perneczky, with support from Openvizor and the Arts Council England and the Austrian Cultural Forum, London.


11:00 – 11:30 Registration

11:30 – 1:00 SESSION 1

Keynote by Erika Balsom (King’s College London) on documentary as a critical method and its predominance in contemporary art. The keynote is followed by a panel presentation and discussion with Rosalind Nashashibi and Mairéad McClean on the aesthetic potential and ethical challenges of approaching documentary as a material object.

1:00 Lunch

2:00 – 3:30 SESSION 2

“The Feeling of Being”, a programme of artists’ films featuring works by Ben Balcom, Hannah Black, Wu Tsang, Sky Hopinka and Neïl Beloufa, followed by “Owed to Bussa / Owed to Senzeni Na”, a live performance by Hannah Catherine Jones (aka Foxy Moron) exploring decolonisation and race-relations using vocals, Theremin and video.

3:30 – 4.00 Break

4.00 – 5:30 SESSION 3

Panel presentation and discussion with Judy Price, Stephen Connolly and Sasha Litvintseva on documentary images as traces, their fictions and materiality embedded equally in the production and extraction of histories.


About the organisers

Minou Norouzi is a filmmaker, film programmer and AHRC funded PhD researcher at Goldsmiths. Her video works have shown at South London Gallery; Calvert 22; CCA Glasgow; QUAD, Derby; Telic Gallery, Los Angeles; and Oberhausen, Kassel Dokfest, Videoex, and Hot Docs festivals. Minou is a founding member of Sheffield Fringe and has been responsible for its creative direction and production since 2011.

Nikolaus Perneczky is a writer, researcher and co-founder of curatorial collective The Canine Condition. He is currently undertaking doctoral studies at Goldsmiths, University of London; his PhD is concerned with the making, sharing and showing of technical moving images in countries newly emergent from colonial rule.

Dr. Mihaela Brebenel is a visual studies researcher and curator, interested in the politics and aesthetics of the audiovisual in artistic practices. She has recently received her PhD from Goldsmiths; currently she is a Teaching Fellow at Winchester School of Art, where she is part of the Archaeologies of Media and Technology research group. She is one of the co-organisers of the Screen and Audiovisual Research Unit at Goldsmiths.