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Report: Image Text Ithaca Symposium

The second Image Text Ithaca (ITI) Symposium drew 75 attendees including faculty mentors; participants in Ithaca College’s new ITI MFA program; and an audience of interested photography students, faculty, and artists. The selection of presenters this year clearly privileged print publications and their makers—a refreshing focus in this era of digital addiction. Read more>

Film as Verb: Documentary Imperfection in the Post-Factual Era by Gabrielle McNally

Man wearing Adolf Hitler / Nazi T-shirt prepares to enter Emancipation Park. August, 12, 2017.

Man wearing Adolf Hitler / Nazi T-shirt prepares to enter Emancipation Park. August, 12, 2017.

We are living in a post-factual era during which people of power in the United States are claiming a mutually exclusive relationship between media and truth, thus presenting an interesting set of problems for documentary filmmaking. Nonfiction film and video, widely believed to be the filmic form most adept at representing truth and reality is, in its current form, far from it. Film scholars understand the constructed nature of documentary’s singular point-of-view, but the average viewer does not see documentary as a creative treatment of actuality, pioneering documentary filmmaker John Grierson’s infamous definition. Bill Nichols describes this treatment as the documentary voice, in which every decision made by the filmmaker. Read more>

REVIEW
Wish for Amnesia by Barbara Rosenthal

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Barbara Rosenthal’s Wish for Amnesia is a fable-like fiction rooted in the late twentieth century. Actually, it is made of two projects: a novel and an interwoven photo series, which serves to illuminate slivers of the narrative and also to act independently, self-reflexively, as photographs do. Dolls and treed landscapes are recurrent themes among the black-and-white chapter headers and full-page photos. Silhouettes or shaky, dreamlike images of people and objects and collages also play in and out of the story. Whether they seem to belong to the narrative as in a graphic novel or merely run alongside the text is for the reader to decide in the moment of seeing each one. None of the images is a direct illustration of text. Read more>

DOSSIER
Speculations and Inquiries on New Participatory Documentary Environments

We are now living in one of the most vibrant historical moments in documentary media ecology, with changing affordances, changing politics, and changing vectors. Read more>

DOSSIER
Toward a Theory of Participatory New Media Documentary

Screen shot from You Are On Indian Land (Challenge for Change, Canada, 1969)

I will not present a manifesto on participatory new media documentary. A manifesto renders resolutions and claims, whereas in this essay I prefer to offer a looser, less hortatory form that opens up inquiry into an important and vital area of documentary that is dynamic and still rather unresolved. Read more>

DOSSIER
Documentary Untethered, Documentary Becoming

Film still from The New Buchanan Mall, San Francisco (2016) photograph by Sophie Constantinou; courtesy Citizen Film

Last year when I screened my episodic documentary Lunch Love Community (2015) for an audience of environmental journalists at the University of Colorado-Boulder, I presented the project from the perspective of our (Patricia Zimmermann’s and my) evolving ideas of Open Space Documentary. A transmedia documentary project that includes a mosaic of twelve short documentary films at its center, Lunch Love Community explores how the citizens of Berkeley radically overhauled and redefined public school meals and food education in the early 2000s. Read more>

DOSSIER
Another Way of Being: Hidden Histories of Collaborative Documentary Practices

Still from Twilight City (1989) by Black Audio Film Collective; courtesy Black Audio Film Collective

In 1964, Werner Haftman, director of the documenta III exhibition in Kassel, Germany, made the following declaration: “The idea of work sharing and teamwork, which produces wonderful results in the modern industrial world, is not appropriate for the art world. In the art world, it is, in fact, a bastard idea. The documenta exhibition wants to show the singular individual instead, the singular creative spirit of the artist.” Read more>

EXHIBITION REVIEW
Sondra Perry: flesh out

Ashes for Three Monitor Workstation (2017) by Sondra Perry. Photo: Kevin Kline, Squeaky Wheel Film & Media Art Center

Sondra Perry’s flesh out is a look at blackness through black history, the black present, and an imagined black future. It serves as an intimate sequel to her 2016 exhibition Resident Evil, featured at the interdisciplinary art space The Kitchen in New York City. Blackness isn’t often represented within technological interfaces, as if the “norm” of cis-gendered, straight whiteness even extends to something without race, sexual orientation or gender. Perry seems to actively counter this idea while exploring the harm regularly done to black bodies. Read more>

 

From the Issue

EXHIBITION REVIEW

Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Decisive Moment / Elliott Erwitt: Pittsburgh 1950 by Marjorie Backman

Dessau, Germany (1945) from the Simon & Schuster edition of The Decisive Moment, pp. 47–48 (1952) by Henri Cartier-Bresson; © Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos

For Henri Cartier-Bresson, it was an ironic turn of events. When the first large photo book of the French photographer was simultaneously published in Paris and New York in 1952, its English title, The Decisive Moment, ended up telegraphing a meaning opposite to his intentions. The book’s French title, Images à la Sauvette, literally meaning “images on the run,” perfectly summed up his approach to photography: operating like a stealthy street peddler without a license, capturing with his lens what he found. But the US publisher Simon & Schuster had culled from his introduction a quote by Cardinal de Retz (“There is nothing in this world which does not have its decisive moment”), extracting a catchy phrase (and perhaps a nod to commerce) for the English title. Cartier-Bresson later bristled at the implication when it became known as his brand, for he didn’t believe that a photo could be taken at only one decisive moment. Read now>

New Pictures: The Propeller Group, Reincarnations

The Living Need Light, The Dead Need Music, the 2014 film by Ho Chi Minh City–based collective the Propeller Group, seems to nicely fit the post-Enlightenment museum’s modus operandi of cross-cultural comparison. Originally created for New Orleans’s Prospect biennial, the film suggests commonalities between its subject – elaborate, multi-day Vietnamese funerary practices — and the similarly carnivalesque character of its host city’s better known, so-called jazz funerals. Viewed within a museum, however, the film reveals a challenge to its new site’s historical function to transform certain kinds of objects into works of art, and others into uneasy art/artifact hybrids. New Pictures: The Propeller Group, Reincarnations pairs the film, recently acquired by the Minneapolis Institute of Art, with an installation of objects selected from departments across the museum’s encyclopedic collection. The installation extends the film’s theme of passing to give new meaning to Theodor Adorno’s old saw about the museum being a mausoleum, which a generation ago served as a theoretical shorthand for 1990s institutional critique. Read now>

BOOK REVIEW

David Bacon’s In the Fields of the North/En los campos del norte

“Which Side Are You On?,” Florence Reece’s famous song based on an old spiritual was, and is, a declaration of partisanship. “No neutrals” she sang. “The workers offered all they had. They offered their hands,” she recalled1. She wrote that song in 1930 when she and her husband Sam were organizing coal miners in Eastern Kentucky. Today, Lorena Hernández, a single mother from Oaxaca Mexico, fills buckets with blueberries in the fields of California, for “as long [each day] as my body can take it” (144). She describes her hands as “tired and dirty and mistreated” (148). Read now>

ESSAY

The Chainletter Tapes

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The slot in our front door rattled, and my sister received a letter. I read it, looking over her shoulder. Quickly, she folded it up and put it away, dismissing it: “It’s just a chain letter.” I was concerned—it looked important. It listed a number of handwritten signatures, including some of her friends. It was the year of the Bicentennial; to my child’s eyes, it looked like a version of the United States Constitution. It read, “If the pattern is not broken, there is no way it can not work. Be sure to copy this letter entirely. OMIT NONE OF IT!” The envelope was addressed to my sister, but its message suggested the unknown power of an organized group. Filled with casual threats, but also the vague possibility of change, its language was strange and foreboding. It thrilled me. Like a stone dropped into a pool, its effect seemed to circle around our house in ever-widening echoes: its promise could only be fulfilled if the rules were followed. That is, if she was a good girl and did it correctly. I was not yet ten years old, and the directives of this kind of magical thinking appealed to me. Read more>

REPORT

3rd Kochi-Muziris Biennale  (From Vol. 44, no.5)

With exhibitions spanning twelve venues and showing work by over one hundred regional and international artists, the Kochi-Muziris Biennale is deservedly recognized as “the largest platform for visual arts engagement in Southeast Asia.” Artist Sudarshan Shetty curated the Biennale (his first curatorial project) and has sensitively and adroitly selected and positioned a compelling array of contemporary work across a wide variety of media, including painting, sculpture, video art, sound art, and performance art. According to Shetty, the Biennale—subtitled “Forming in the Pupil of an Eye—“is an assembly and layering of multiple realities” that offers the possibility for connections between the spaces of “immediate experience” and “multiple other consciousnesses.” This approach seems appropriate for the first and only biennial held in India, a country long associated with spiritual and meditative practices intended to facilitate such bridging of reality with higher consciousness. Read more>

Transmediale: Festival for Art & Digital Culture<
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From Skype duets to an artist shaking hands with one thousand people and then tak­ing “Microbiome Selfies” of the germs on his hands, from a performance of a flying drone to a brief history of the air-raid siren, from angst about maker culture being co-opted to complaints about the creeping complicity of the sharing economy with neoliberalism, Transmediale is an annual five-day festival in Berlin that approaches digital art, technology, and culture from a mind-bogglingly diverse panoply of conceptual, theoretical, and disci­plinary starting points…Read more>

ESSAY
The Cowboy Prince (From Vol. 43, no.5)
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In fall of 2015, Richard Prince exhibited a sculpture titled Cowboy at Barbara Gladstone Gallery in Chelsea in New York City, which was both predictable and surprising. Prince’s long preoccupation with the cowboy image started with the work he produced in the 1980s while working in the tearsheets department of Time magazine. There he became attracted to the images used in Marlboro ads, which employed variations on the mythic, ruggedly handsome character to sell cigarettes. Prince rephotographed the ads with the skills of an amateur, cropping out the logo and ad copy and having them reprinted…Read more>

 

 

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FROM THE ISSUE

Current Issue, Vol. 45, no. 5

PORTFOLIO
Xilunguine by Paul Castro

PREVIOUS ISSUE
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Shrukk (Knot) by Mudabbir Ahmad Tak

ONLINE EXCLUSIVES


REPORT
Image Text Ithaca Symposium


FEATURE
Film as Verb: Documentary Imperfection in the Post-Factual Era by Gabrielle McNally


DOSSIER
Speculations and Inquiries on New Participatory Documentary Environments


DOSSIER
Toward a Theory of Participatory New Media Documentary


DOSSIER
Documentary Untethered, Documentary Becoming


DOSSIER
Collaborative Documentary Practice: Histories, Theories, Practices

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Silos by Andria Hickey and Matthew Chasney

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