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Cinema, documentary, and the visual arts

Regarding the real: cinema, documentary, and the visual arts develops an approach to the study of documentary film focussing on its aesthetic and cultural relations to the modern visual arts, especially: animation, assemblage, photography, painting, and architecture. In particular, it examines how documentary practices have often incorporated methods and expressive techniques derived from these art forms. Combining close analysis with cultural history, the book re-assesses the influence of the modern visual arts in subverting the structures of realism typically associated with documentary film, and considers the work of figures whose preferred film language is associative, and fragmentary, and for whom the documentary remains an open form, an unstable expressive phenomenon that at its best interrogates its own narratives, and intentions. In the course of its discussion, the book charts a path that leads from Len Lye to Hiroshi Teshigahara, and includes along the way figures such as Joseph Cornell, Johan van der Keuken, William Klein, Jean-Luc Godard, Jonas Mekas, Raymond Depardon.

Experiential challenges to the medium of theatrical representation

5 Re-membering the real: experiential challenges to the medium of theatrical representation As outlined in Chapter 1 of this study, Jean Baudrillard’s theories converge around his notion of the simulacrum, which posits that our culture is now at the point whereby the real itself is constructed by the simulated which, in turn, is a copy of ‘the real’, resulting in a mobius strip of simulations that make up the totality of our contemporary reality. As all conceptual positions are thereby also within the simulacrum, there appears to be no position from which it

in Acts and apparitions
Verbatim practice in a sceptical age

4 Representing the real: verbatim practice in a sceptical age Emerging out of the prevailing climate of scepticism in the final decade of the twentieth century was the revitalisation of documentary forms of theatre in the first decade of the twenty-first. This particular wave of documentary theatre tended to draw, most of all, on the tradition of verbatim or testimonial performance which can be seen to permeate all manner of theatrical practice across this period. Verbatim performance texts are created entirely from extracts of interview transcripts or

in Acts and apparitions
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blur the boundaries between film, video, photography, and installation art. However, even when studying formally inventive documentaries that engage explicitly with the other visual arts, the prevailing critical methodology, especially within the Anglo-­ American tradition, prefers the cinema of cultural studies to a cultural studies of the cinema, so to speak.2 While Regarding the Real: Cinema, Documentary, and the Visual Arts also considers how some documentaries depict modern artists, artworks, and histories of art, it is more interested in addressing a different

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Forecast (Evelyn Cherry, 1934, 20 min.), Housing Problems (Arthur Elton and Edgar Anstey, 1935, 13 min.), The King’s Stamp (William Coldstream, 1935, 20 min.), and Night Mail (Basil Wright and Harry Watt, 1936, 24 min.) became associated with the representation of this treatment of ‘social truth’, and with a notion of the documentary film as showing ‘the common man, not in the romance of his calling, but in the more complex and intimate drama of his citizenship’.2 In simplifying into sociology the artistic environment that 12 Regarding the real produced the GPO (and

in Regarding the real

witnessed the formation of various small but influential groups such as REFLEX, the Fiftiers (De Vijftigers), the Experimental Group Holland (De Experimentele Groep Holland), and CoBrA.3 This vibrant culture of modernism would also leave a lasting impression on a young Dutch photographer, filmmaker, writer, and jazz enthusiast: Johan van der Keuken. Encouraged by his grandfather, Van der Keuken took up photography when he was 12, and was already exhibiting and publishing work before he left Amsterdam in 1955, to study at 62 Regarding the real the Institut des hautes

in Regarding the real

caught the ­conscience of 142 Regarding the real advanced w ­ estern societies generally too busy for death, and the work of mourning.5 Perhaps, the grief of those who gathered in the Park that chilly Sunday afternoon (mainly white, middle class, and not quite middle-­aged) had more to do with the phenomenon of symbolic loss and generalised social anxiety than the sudden death of the man who had given the world songs like ‘Imagine’. After all, Chapman’s act also further undermined the crumbling mythology of New York City, a place Lennon himself­– ­paraphrasing a

in Regarding the real

around New York, and into its spaces, are also journeys into a past, orphic quests to retrieve and reconstitute a lost world from found reality, from remnants of the present. City­/documentary After the Second World War, the US government continued to relax immigration quotas, ending the isolationism that had prevailed throughout the 1930s, and­– ­more controversially­ – ­early 1940s. Migrants once again flowed into New York, 34 Regarding the real and neighbourhoods in Queens and Brooklyn became home to a new generation of post-­war refugees, who soon registered

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constructed by these forces. Brechtian statements in his films at this time invariably articulate an artistic vision that enjoins the filmmaker to represent the particularity of the real through elliptical, ironic, and ambiguous associations (montage) rather than through the mirage of mimesis (realism). Une femme est une femme (Godard, 1961, 84 min.), for example, cites Brecht: ‘Realism does not consist in reproducing reality, but in showing how things really are’, and in 1970­– ­in a manifesto published in the inaugural issue of Peter Whitehead’s Afterimage magazine

in Regarding the real

Johns, Nam June Paik, and the dancer-­choreographers Merce Cunningham and Jean Erdman. Although less controversial than the annual Yomiuri Independent Exhibition, the programmes at SAC were similarly influenced by the widespread opposition to the renewal of the US–Japan Security Treaty (Anpo tōsō) in 1960. William Klein­ – ­whose Broadway by Light (1959) was screened at SAC 162 Regarding the real in 1961­– p ­ hotographed Tokyo at that time, and his images convey a still frantic, vulnerable metropolis, caught between dazed disquiet and rampant redevelopment.2 In

in Regarding the real