I have been considering documentary gestures as manifested in filmmaking and media art practices. Although I can immediately think of counterpoints, I am curious if the following hypothesis might be useful in distinguishing between how documentary manifests in the two fields: documentary filmmaking, because of its formal narrative structure, provides the audience with a conclusion that leads to the work being read as historical record, as something that is finished. Documentary media art practices, because they do not rely on narrative structures, remain ideologically open (or at the least, less prescribed), and a reading of them resonates as a potential future-tense paradigm shift. Here, filmmaking relates action; media art compels action. An encounter with filmmaking is an opportunity to extract lessons from history; an encounter with media art is an opportunity to imagine future history.

But. Al Gore, for instance, intended An Inconvenient Truth to act as a catalyst for change in the lives of the people who saw it. Also, Joshua and Zachary Sandler, with their Sierra Blood Diaries, are cataloguing their sister’s life as much as they are doing anything else.

Do filmmaking and media art contexts compel different types of obligations to their subject or to History? What can filmmaking and media art practices learn from each other through these similar documentary gestures?


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