Since Grierson’s definition of the documentary as “creative treatment of actuality,” critics have been struggling to establish distinctions between documentary and fiction. Furthermore, the critical discourse has been constantly challenged by new artistic meditations of reality and its representation, and works blurring the border between the logic of facts and the logic of fiction. Additionally, this dualism is complicated by the difficult question of truth telling. Cinema has a long and winding history of non-fiction: from staged or dramatized actualities at its beginning, via docudrama, fake documentaries and mockumentary, to trends in recent documentaries that incorporate reenactment and animation. Since the mid-1990s the “documentary turn in contemporary art” has seen more and more artists experimenting with documentary modes through which they are questioning the mediations by which facts/documents acquire their facticity.
The aim of this seminar will be to examine films and works in contemporary art that address these difficult questions of fact and fiction. Readings will include work from film and art criticism and theory, as well as critical literature addressing questions of fact and fiction in historiography, narratology, and philosophy.
Films may include works by Edison, Robert Flaherty, Ari Folman, Abbas Kiraostami, Chris Marker, George Méliès, Jim McBride, Avi Mograbi, Rithy Panh, Jean Rouch, Peter Watkins, Orson Welles.
Works by contemporary artists may include Kutlug Ataman, The Atlas Group/Walid Raad, Michael Blum, Katarina Burin, Sophie Calle, Thomas Demand, Kota Ezawa, Omar Fast, Amar Kanwar, Pierre Huyghe, Elisabeth Subrin, and Kerry Tribe.