PDF version of the program is available here: poetics-politics-2015 (please note that there has been a change in the schedule, updated May 3, 2015)

All presentations will be in DARC 108. Screenings will take place in DARC 317 (screening information is listed after panel information on this page)

Participants: Jouko Aaltonen, Samuel Anderson, Steve Anderson, Larry Andrews, Inga Burrows, Jenny Chio, Sharon Daniel, Kevin Jerome Everson, Jeanne Finley, Sarah Franzen, Miriam Greenberg, Cathy Greenhalgh, Elias Grootaers, Rebecca Gourevitch, Irene Gustafson, Fabiola Hanna, Susanna Helke, Alex Johnston, Omotayo Jolaosho, Timo Korhonen, Alisa Lebow, Katja Lautamatti, Martin Lucas, Irene Lusztig, Erin Mcelroy, Erika Mijlin, Kristin Miller, Fiamma Montezemolo, Elsa Ramos, David Rice, Paige Sarlin, Aparna Sharma, Jeffrey Skoller, Pratap Rughani, Matt Soar, Jennifer Maytorena Taylor, Samuael Topiary, Lizzie Thynne, Adriana Trujillo, Hope Tucker, Tamara Vukov, Travis Wilkerson, Julie Wyman, Andrea Luka Zimerman

FRIDAY                         MAY 15, 2015   DARC 108

6:00- 6:30pm            WELCOME and OPENING REMARKS

6:30-8:00pm             EPISTEMOLOGIES OF PRAXIS (Sharon Daniel, Hope Tucker, Pratap Rughani)  

This panel gathers practitioners whose  documentary work provide key provocations for this symposium. Interrogating and problematizing how documentary epistemologies and meanings are constructed, this panel raises specific approaches for demystifying documentary-making as a practice of visible evidence. Questions considered by this panel include: the scope of documentary practice in the ‘fourth world’; documentary materiality as a source for relaying narratives of unresolved environmental disaster; and the ethical (consent) and aesthetic/affective concerns in documentary-making processes that involve asymmetric power relations between makers and subjects. The panel offers pathways for understanding reflexive praxis as a source of competing historical and affective epistemologies, more than simply a move to deconstruct the documentary artefact. Through this, the panel situates how documentary-making as a socio-historical and psycho-social practice intervenes in contemporary geo-political scenarios.

8:00-9:00pm             Drinks and nibbles on the 3rd floor

SATURDAY               MAY 16, 2015   DARC 108

9:00-10:30am            WRITING WITH AND ON SCREEN (Alisa Lebow, Alex Johnston, Travis Wilkerson)

Online and digital platforms offer and enable compelling structures for documentary research. This panel presents two in-progress online sites: Filming Revolution (Lebow, forthcoming 2015) and Now! A Journal of Urgent Praxis ( Both projects enact online documentary as a simultaneously creative, scholarly and political project wherein the role of production, curation and distribution is integral to a politically engaged documentary practice. In the case of Filming Revolution, an interactive meta-documentary surveying the field of independent documentary making in Egypt since the revolution, the website attempts “to match the open ended, counter-monumental, rhizomatic emergent structure of this revolution by placing it into a homologous platform (non-linear, non-hierarchical, spatially and temporally open-ended) that loosely parallels the sentiments and strategies expressed within without attempting to master or constrain them.” Now! A Journal of Urgent Praxis offers a platform for radical discussion of and response to contemporary events through the dissemination of politically engaged and formally experimental non-fiction media and critical writing.

10:45am-12:15pm  REVERBS, REPEATS, AND RE-ENACTMENTS  (Jenny Chio, David Rice, Tamara Vukov)

This panel examines how research processes and documentary-making, understood as a socially-engaged practice, inform and impact one another. The panel gathers practitioners who work in very specific cultural contexts and use their documentary-making to historicise the cultural experiences of subjects in their chosen field-sites. Plotting fractured, disjunct and even violent narratives of workers, women, refugees, displaced and disadvantaged peoples — their documentary-making confronts broader contradictions tied to the experiences of competing modernities and conceptions of modern-nationhood/s. These contradictions do not neatly lend themselves to linear or rational forms of documentary construction. The panelists will discuss the formal strategies they use for devising complex documentary forms that respond to cultural experiences that fall outside the dominant forms and narratives of western nationhood.

12:15-1:45pm          LUNCH (catered for presenters)

1:45-3:15pm             THE AESTHETICS OF THE ETHNOGRAPHIC (Samuel Anderson, Sarah Franzen, Cathy Greenhalgh)

Ethnographic filmmaking has received much consideration about its scope and status as a form of knowledge production, particularly following the reflexive turn in this field since the late-1980s. Yet, aesthetic issues and approaches of ethnographic filmmaking are seldom integrated into discussions about their epistemological values. Contesting stable categories of ethnographic films, this panel probes how aesthetic approaches to ethnographic documentary-making open avenues and forms of knowledge, hitherto unrecognized within the canon of ethnographic documentary. Working across contexts ranging from ritual to cotton trade, the panelists will share examples from works-in-progress to illustrate how formal approaches to documentation offer knowledge/s and epistemologies that exceed conventional categories of ethnographic data. The panel will focus on intersubjective forms of documentary-making, issues of duration and the uses of affective and tactile aesthetics in ethnographic documentary-making.

3:30-5:00pm              BODIES OF WORK   (Julie Wyman, Lizzie Thynne)

The body is a tool of political and poetic practice. Galvanizing this understanding, this panel contests the Cartesian duality of body and mind. Panelists will share elements of their practice to illustrate how they are plotting narratives of the body/ies that exceed the institutionalized discourses and frameworks used for rationalizing bodily experiences and memories in relation to bodily discourses spanning a range of terms: size, ethnicity, class, body form, trauma, to name a few. Deriving from feminist thought and methodologies, the panelists will discuss their methods of research and making (specifically form) through which they seek to not only contest institutionalized and market-oriented approaches to the body, but more crucially, use their practice to create linkages between bodies that are either ‘exceptional’ or ‘marginal’, in society. This move to provoke linkages between bodies is rooted in disassembling conventional and institutionalized approaches to the body.

5:30-7:00pm            KEYNOTE (Kevin Jerome Everson)

7:30pm                        Bonfire/Dinner at Seabright Beach (a shuttle bus will transport participants to the beach and back to hotels and/or DARC at 10:30pm)


SUNDAY                    MAY 17, 2015   DARC 108

9:00-10:30am            FIRE ALARMS: ON HISTORY (Fabiola Hanna, Katja Lautamatti, Omotayo Jolaosho)

Who writes history, using whose tools? This question has gained much currency following the digital revolution of our times. Ease of accessibility and operability have led to the permeation of media in our environments, offering prompt ways of recording and writing histories from the perspectives of those on whose bodies the motions of history are transacted. This panel examines the possibilities of archival documentary practices for writing, rewriting and contesting historical narratives. Working in Lebanon and South Africa, the panelists ask what kinds of knowledges can be devised from oral, aural and visual materials? More specifically, what understandings about political life-worlds can be derived from the sonic, spatial and kinesthetic knowledge contained in oral history and archival materials? Sharing examples from their practices-in-progress the panelists will illustrate how documentary-making can complicate understandings of archival materials by asserting them as ‘composed’, rather than objective and therefore omniscient bodies of data.

10:45am-12:15pm IMAGES OF HARMONY AND RUPTURE (Susanna Helke, Jouko Aaltonen, Timo Korhonen)

Over the years, a tradition of social documentary has consolidated into something like a generic form. Crises and ruptures in the social fabric have been depicted through narratives of power and powerlessness. The gaze of the documentary film has most often been directed at the ‘victims’ of crisis, and occasionally, aimed at dismantling the structures power and privilege. The agenda of these films has been yoked to an agenda of social change wherein the subjects of the film are instrumentalized as witnesses. Societal problems are presented as something that happens, has a dramatic form, and can therefore unfold in front of the camera. This panel examines the social documentary in relation to the Scandinavian welfare state. Images of Harmony and Rupture is a practice-based research project group that aims to reimagine the social documentary form. Jouko Aaltonen’s project focuses on the rhetoric of social and political documentary film in the context of representing the ethos and ruptures of the welfare state, Timo Korhonen discusses the ways the content and form of documentary films reflects the ethos of Scandinavian society versus the fictions of southern European societies, and Susanna Helke discusses the use of poetic strategies in representing the political and the aesthetics of manifestation and provocation.

12:15- 1:45pm           THE ESSAYISTIC AS EXPERIMENT  (Paige  Sarlin, Erika Mijlin, Fiamma Montezemolo)

The documentary essay’s power lies in its precise abilities to trouble and redefine our expectations of what constitutes media production and scholarship. It is a form of documentary which is difficult to describe or define for the exact reason why it remains so productively important – it makes and remakes forms, it reveals conventions as conventions, and beautifully asserts that testing and experimentation are fundamental modes of documentary inquiry. This panel collectively engages with essayistic practices through the staging of important questions: what determines the choice of formats? How do format choices bear on documentary research and outcomes? What constitutes the kernel of the documentary image? How do issues of place and history animate our practices, our aesthetics and our politics?


1:45-2:45pm             LUNCH (catered for presenters)

2:45- 4:15pm             TIMELESS BASED (Elias Grootares, Jeanne Finley, Jeffrey Skoller)

For it is an irretrievable picture of the past, which threatens to disappear with every present, which does not recognize itself as meant in it.  — Walter Benjamin, On The Concept of History

This panel ponders the status of time in relation to documentary practices. Elia Grootaers examines aphoristic writing and thinking and how such written words and thoughts can be conveyed in a spoken presentation. His subject is the notion of documentary film as a chain of citations of reality. Jeanne Finley and Jeffrey Skoller ask: what is the meaning of the “present” in documentary media? How can a document address the need to confront an event that is unfolding in the present moment, where its direction and outcome is not yet determined, in which the dynamics of the event is not yet understood or able to be narrated?   

4:30-6:00PM             REPERTOIRES OF ARCHIVES (Steve Anderson, Martin Lucas, Matt Soar)

What constitutes an archive in the field of moving image media? What are the functions of archives in moving image media generally, and documentary practice specifically? This panel gathers practitioners who are interested in contesting the limits and functions of archival materials in documentary practice. Each practitioner expresses their distinct approach to appreciating and working with archival materials. Questioning the stability of visual archives as neutral and total sources of data, their processes of work call up competing modalities for appreciating archival materials and using them on terms more complex than as evidence of a time gone past. Depictions of Hiroshima, the leaders at the start of a film and the evolution of computer technology through Hollywood cinema are the specific archival materials with which practitioners of this panel are working. The panelists will discuss the use of multiple media formats for articulating and disseminating their research.

6:15-7:45PM            GENTRIFICATION  (Miriam Greenberg, Kristin Miller, Erin McElroy, Rebecca Gourevitch, Elsa Ramos, Samuael Topiary )

Building upon a collaborative working research group at UCSC focusing on the history and political theories of urban gentrification and the ways in which gentrification and urban displacements have been represented and framed in documentary film, this panel will present a number of new documentary works and papers dealing with current Bay Area gentrification. The participants will present a number of short presentations on their work as academic researchers, political activists and documentarians. The topics will range from questions about urban and public policy, transportation and infrastructure, class struggle and technology, the ethnic and racial components of displacement, and environmentalism and sustainability. Following the short presentations and screenings, the panel will open into a discussion which will address central questions about the role of activism, and documentary film and media in influencing legislation, public policy, community attitudes, and economic conditions.


SCREENINGS will take place in DARC 317. Program will be repeated on both Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th


COMPANY LINE (Kevin Jerome Everson, 2009, 30 min)

A film about one of the first predominately Black neighborhoods in Mansfield Ohio. The title, Company Line, refers to the name historically used by residents to describe their neighborhood, located on the north side of town close to the old steel mill. The Company Line began during the post-war migration of Blacks from the south to the north in the late forties. The neighborhood was purchased in the early seventies and its residents were scattered throughout Mansfield. City employees and former residents of the Company Line narrate the film.


ESTATE, A REVERIE (Andrea Luka Zimmerman. 2015, 83 min)

Filmed over seven years, Estate, a Reverie reveals and celebrates the resilience of residents who are profoundly overlooked by media representations and wider social responses. Interweaving intimate portraits with the residents’ own historical re-enactments, landscape and architectural studies and dramatised scenes, Estate, a Reverie asks how we might resist being framed exclusively through class, gender, ability or disability, and even through geography.


OWNER BUILT (Larry Andrews, 2013, 49 min)

Hurricane Katrina and the ensuing aftermath destroyed Noel’s community and home. He is rebuilding, and as he rebuilds, he evokes the past through the enlistment of his personal archives. His memories are complicated by the tragic events that occurred on the Danziger Bridge on September 4Th 2005. As Noel reflects back on what has been lost, the story that he tells about his neighborhood is affected by the story of innocent people gunned down while attempting to cross a bridge in search of safety, and for Noel their plight clarifies many things. Noel is performing his story, motivated by a collection of photographs that prompt him to recount events from his past and present. An implied author performs Noel who then performs others.


STREET KNOWLEDGE  2 COLLEGE , excerpts  (Jennifer Maytorena Taylor, 2013, 15 min)

SK2C explores the lives of students and families at a unique, community-organized school in South Los Angeles. Run by the Youth Justice Coalition, FREE L.A. High School works to get youth off the school-to-jail track and engaged in community leadership – transforming their own lives and those of others. This original 15-part commissioned web series  was conceived and produced collaboratively with youth from the FREE L.A. High School community.


JUSTINE (Pratap Rughani, 2013, 28 min)

Justine doesn’t speak. She communicates through looking, gesture and the body language of her movement and interactions. This short documentary creates an intimate portrait of Justine’s experience, observing the close rhythms of her days in the run-up to her milestone birthday and the new challenges of life in a changing welfare system.


SKIN DESTINATION (Adrianna Trujillo, 2012, 10 min)

Skin Destination proposes a reflection to the state of emergency that Mexico lives in from the perspective of the body as an agent. Using found footage film in Skin Destination elapses in a cross-border manner (as well as in the city of Tijuana) different formats, narrative strategies and staging.



Since the mid-1960’s, artist residencies have become a global phenomena. Supported by partnerships between the state and private organisations, taken up by public institutions, religious establishments, and charities, artists have occupied roles within sites of urban regeneration, taken their creative curiosity to isolated rural locations, been inspired by majestic architectural surroundings, or performed a quasi-comic position inhabiting wacky purpose-built constructions. The reciprocal benefits to organisation and to artist have legitimised the often maligned practice of the contemporary artist. For a period of 6 months in 2014 Burrown documented the process of participatory engagement as first artist-in-residence at the Welsh language Soap Pobol y Cwm (PyC).


MOTHERHOOD ARCHIVES (Irene Lusztig, 2013, 91 min)

Archival montage, science fiction, and an homage to 70s feminist filmmaking are woven together to form this haunting and lyrical essay film excavating hidden histories of childbirth in the twentieth century. Assembling an extraordinary archive of over 100 educational, industrial, and medical training films (including newly rediscovered Soviet and French childbirth films) the film inventively untangles the complex, sometimes surprising genealogies of maternal education.

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