Stratified realities: convergence and mediation in non-fiction collage film.
AffiliationUniversity of Derby
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AbstractPositivist thinking has been highly influential on the development of documentary film in the English-speaking world. Brian Winston (1995) argues that this is explained by the perception of the camera as a scientific instrument that provides the facility to deliver an unmediated reality intact to the viewer. This conceit has been central to documentary production in the English speaking cannon, underpinning the truth claims of direct cinema and its observational, objective ethos. In contrast, Documentary filmmakers such as Adam Curtis and Joshua Oppenheimer, working within strategies that openly embrace the synthesis of documentary with experimental and fictional practice, have suggested that the language of non-fiction must develop new tools for adequately addressing the heterogeneity and plurality of the social world. This implies that the complexity of unequal relations determining social forces cannot be adequately described by conventional documentary representation, particularly those conventions tied to tenets of objectivity and balance. The research aims to address this need by developing non-fictional collage as a method for interrogating the mechanisms that shape the social world. The project’s practical methodology emphasises fabrication, simultaneity and layering as tools with the potential to extend the vocabulary of documentary film. The paper will present a body of practice research that explores the intersection of collage, found footage film, animation, documentary and critical realism. The practice investigates digital compositing, hybridity and the capacity for spatial layering to generate an intermediate, unstable aesthetic that cannot be assigned to any singular, unitary ontological level. The paper argues that these conditions provoke an elasticity and ambiguity that dissolves binary distinctions between mimesis and abstraction, reflecting the non-dualist standpoint of critical realism at a medial point between positivist and idealist perspectives. The research deploys the particular constructedness and intermediality of collage as a disruption to ideologically conditioned appearance forms. This posits the practice as a challenge to reductive accounts of the socio-historical world in dominant visual cultures under capitalism. The paper claims that in contrast to unmediated live action images, the hybridity of collage has the potential to more adequately describe the complexity and contingency of reality. The paper explores the layered composite of colliding images as the locus of collage as political discourse. This lies in its facility to surpass the limitations of the monovalent image through the dialectical tension of simultaneity and coexistence. The capacity of collage to describe the interdependence and complexity of socio-historical phenomena is underpinned by the critical realist concept of stratified reality, an idea that advances an ontology comprised of co-dependent structures and mechanisms. The project draws from theoretical debates in experimental and animated documentary that assert the legitimacy of explicit construction and fabrication in non-fictional address. The paper argues that the persistence of collage lies in its continuing relevance as a process of working through and negotiating the complexity of an increasing interconnected and disorientating world.
CitationBosward, M (2018) ‘Stratified realities: convergence and mediation in non-fiction collage film’, Symbiotic cinema: Confluences of film and other media. Linnaeus University, 6-8 September 2018. Sweden.
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