Documents of Utopia: The Politics of Experimental Documentary (Nonfictions)

Documents of Utopia: The Politics of Experimental Documentary (Nonfictions)

Language: English

Pages: 224

ISBN: 0231172710

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


This timely volume discusses the experimental documentary projects of some of the most significant artists working in the world today: Hito Steyerl, Joachim Koester, Tacita Dean, Matthew Buckingham, Zoe Leonard, Jean-Luc Moulène, Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, Jon Thomson and Alison Craighead, and Anri Sala. Their films, videos, and photographic series address failed utopian experiments and counter-hegemonic social practices.

This study illustrates the political significance of these artistic practices and critically contributes to the debate on the conditions of utopian thinking in late-capitalist society, arguing that contemporary artists' interest in the past is the result of a shift within the temporal organization of the utopian imagination from its futuristic pole toward remembrance. The book therefore provides one of the first critical examinations of the recent turn toward documentary in the field of contemporary art.

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Sydney, with whom I regularly tested part of this book, for their caring and engaged responses. My editor, Yoram Allon, at Wallflower Press has been wonderfully supportive since day one and I will always be grateful for his wisdom, experience and wit as this project has progressed. I would also like to thank all the team at Wallflower Press for their efficiency in expertly steering the book to publication. This book has evolved over a number of years. Part of chapter three appeared as ‘Moulène,

countries such as Zambia, India and the Philippines has created employment and stimulated the local textile industry, which depends on the recycling of used clothes. More importantly, it brought affordable goods to low-income rural and urban consumers and enabled them to buy not only more, but better quality clothes, ‘for not only does [the international trade in used garments] give people what they need, namely clothing they can afford; it also gives them what they want, namely the ability to

really do emit speech capable of making pronouncements on the common which cannot be reduced to voices signalling pain.’59 In relation to Rancière’s aesthetics, Vingt-quatre Objets de Grève emerges as an example of an emancipatory and political art. The project describes the strikers as subjects capable of occupying a different place from that usually prescribed to them by Archives of Commodities 113 the capitalist order and, therefore, it affirms the universal claim of equality that

and 1970s gave legitimacy to the spread and triumph of the ‘personal’ computer, supporting the Internet’s explosion of the following decades. What is more, this discourse helped establish expectations about the medium and, among them, the idea that the Internet should be a space of free exchange beyond regulation. The emphasis on chance and unpredictability in human/computer interaction has often gone hand in hand with libertarian notions of the global network. However, technological romanticism

Steyerl ultimately suggest that, like the airplane crashing, images are also constantly at risk of collapsing and morphing into something else. The notion of excess is also symbolised by the figure of the DVD, which, in my view, is central to the understanding of the video. In this sequence we witness the resurrection of the crashed airplanes into DVDs on which the video will be recorded. Melted aluminium from the decommissioned airplanes is poured into circular moulds using various high-tech

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