Is There a Documentary Attitude?


3 p.m.
Goethe-Institut Prag, Masarykovo nábřeží 32
Prague, czech Republic

Dorit Margreiter, artist, Vienna [a]
Raiumundas Malauskas, curator, CAC Vilnius [lt]
Daniel Pies, curator, Kunstverein Muenchen [g]
Sabine Schaschl-Cooper, director, Kunsthaus Baseland [ch]
Vít Havránek, project leader, tranzit, Prague [cz]
Miklos Erhardt, artist, Budapest [hu]
Flying City, urbanism research group [South Korea]
moderated by Bettina Steinbrugge, director, Halle für Kunst Lüneburg [d]

Questions for the discussion:
Can be found an “ontological basis” in the need to document?
Is there in the documentary attitude an ethics of the form or aesthetics?

The round table discussion is part of the project "The Need to Document". The project falls back upon several formats: two exhibitions, one round table in each of the three involved institutions/initiatives and a book.

About the book "The Need to Document":

In Central Europe, in the Balkans, in the countries undergoing a transformation from the system of communist socialism, we have witnessed a historical turning point. The rise of spectacularity and the ‘entertainment industry’ in Eastern Europe was facilitated by film distribution, the creation of commercial television stations, advertising and marketing. The entry of advertising into the public space was the most striking. Until 1989 there was virtually no advertising in these countries. Nor was there a statute of public space, as we know it today. If you go from the Bucharest airport into the centre today, or if you are driving through Czech towns or on the highways through the countryside, even a person from the West, accustomed to advertising at home, will be shocked at how much bigger, more visible and intense the (unregulated) advertisements are in these new countries. Advertising (like the size of shopping centres), has flooded the space in leaps, at its present capacity.

It seems that the unbridled entry of advertising into the public space of the transforming countries in the 1990s created a mental-visual code, the main but hidden particularity of which was an ethical vacuum. Advertising subordinates all media-visual means
of communication and creativity to one postulate: to increase the sale of products. Advertising has at its disposal powerful economic means, but, aside from its position in the economic chain of functions, it has no firm ground in the area of ethics. In a loose polemic with the expansion of advertising, there developed, in the sphere of visual art, a conception of its own position, which the author calls the ‘documentary position’.

The decision to devote oneself to documentary is an acceptance of the condition to define one’s creativity in direct connection with the complexes of social-historical issues, which the artist documents; what permits us to call a work documentary is the relation between the documenting and the documented. Thus, the decision to work in a documentary manner primarily situates the not-I, other people, creators, works, social phenomena and so on, at the centre of the thinking and acting of the creative subject. All metaphysical horizons and aesthetic operations in documentarism arise in connection with a real social-historical matrix.

In the sphere of visual art, the documentary approach creates a causal connection between the social positions of the subject and creative operations in specific media. Aesthetic decisions and norms have a social-political dimension in documentarism and vice versa. In the documentary, it is impossible to look at form and aesthetics isolated, unconnected to the theme, and this relationship is defined in ethical categories.

This interrelatedness of the individual components compels the visual artist to develop an ethic of formal approaches in his works. Documentary works define an ethic of forms. One can’t speak of the subordination of aesthetics to ethics, but what we are interested
in is looking at the connection between them and understanding how ethical views are implemented in a specific aesthetic and vice versa. How visual art attributes an ethical value to certain forms.

The book "The Need to Document" attempts to make out the backrounds leading to the turn towards documentation, as well as the thematic focuses and concerns associated with the new documentary stance. The interests of these documentary working methods in art remain reflectively close to the inherent laws of all known documentary channels, but additionally assert their own special features and logic.

Two exhibitions and three round tables led towards the book that includes contributions from following artists and writers: Edgar Arcenaux, Azorro, Dario Azzellini, Zbyněk Baladrán, Christoph Behnke, Ursula Biemann, Big Hope, Duncan Campbell, Mircea Cantor, Pascale Cassagnau, Soren Grammel in collaboration with Gerhard Zarbock, Marina Grzinic, Jens Haaning, Vít Havránek, Dora Hegyi, Laura Horelli, Klub Zwei, Joachim Koester, Raimundas Malasauskas, Dorit Margreiter, Boris Ondreička, Kirsten Pieroth, Gerald Raunig, Oliver Ressler, Hinrich Sachs, Angela Sanders, Sabine Schaschl-Cooper, Georg Schöllhammer, Jiří Skála, Claudia Spinelli, Bettina Steinbrugge, Hito Steyerl, Mark Ther, Attila Tordai-S., Jan Verwoert, Olivier Zabat, Ella Ziegler.

The book is edited by JRP/Ringier and will be launched on 15 June 2005 at the Kunsthaus Baselland

External Links
Goethe-Institut Prag


Creative Commons License