Accepted Paper:

Reimagining the Archive: Interactive Documentary as a Site of Suppressed Histories  
Amir Husak (The New School)

Paper short abstract:

Documentary practice is inextricably linked to archives and historiography. One just needs to look at the long and rich past of documentary film to see, for example, how both scholars and practitioners have animated the archive by re-narrativizing its fragments, speculating on its omissions and resisting its hegemonic discourses.

Paper long abstract:

Expanding on this tradition, interactive forms of documentary make use of software to explore reconfigurations, new contexts and varied readings of archives and their ideological biases. Furthermore, documentary practitioners employ new tools and technologies to create their own archival systems, often diametrically opposed to the ones that are state-sponsored and/or those that reproduce certain kinds of narratives. Centered on databases, and employing novel interfaces, presentation and navigation methods, interactive documentaries seem to challenge the idea of archive as a static and non-negotiable repository of knowledge. Inherently open-ended, these works engage various forms of community and activist media, correspondence, gestures and impressions mediated by software. This presentation highlights such tendencies and explores the concept of interactive documentary as both an archiving practice and art of collectivism. Using examples from my recent work in Bosnia-Herzegovina, I discuss how these new configurations generate polyphonies over both space and time by calling for sustained engagement with various kinds of records. As a departure point, I put forth the following questions: what are the epistemological and political implications of these kinds of transitions to digital paradigms? In light of rising doubts about democratic potentials of digital media, can interactive docs radically influence the way history is recorded and transmitted? Lastly, through the lens of historical materialism, I consider the role infrastructures, class and economic circumstances play in these alternate forms of archiving and knowledge production.

Panel P24
Encountering reality as crisis: documentary, ethnographic media and education
  Session 1