Whose screens? Our screens! Interactive documentary as an agent of change

Amir Husak

Whose screens? Our screens! Interactive documentary as an agent of change

The rise of interactive documentary coincided with the global economic crisis and a number of social and political upheavals of epoch-making proportions. Many recent projects “-GDP”, “4 Stelle Hotel”, “Le Grand Incendie”, “Mapping Main Street”, “Money and the Greeks”, “Rapporteur de Crise”, and “18 Days in Egypt”, to name but a few -have been conceived as immediate responses to these disruptions. Whether by recording and archiving outside of the framework of dogmatic historical narratives, collecting evidence of the consequences of the precarization, or exploring the possibilities of participation and civic engagement through digital agency, all of these works can be considered forms of present-day political interventions.

By delineating our time as the age of precarity (Lorrey 2014; Butler 2004) that concurs with the crisis of representation characterized by unrepresentable people and an overpopulation of images (Steyerl, 2012), it becomes increasingly important to investigate the capacity of digital media to articulate alternatives and mobilize civic action.

This presentation looks at the role of the emerging documentary practices in the midst of these upheavals; the recent wave of anti-capitalist and anti-austerity protests, refugee crises, and the fight for the commons. Furthermore, it aims to interrogate the capacity of interactive documentary to build and sustain a socially-engaged community and answer the call for radical change. Coming from a hybrid perspective of practitioner-scholar, I will briefly draw on the existing documentary theory, notions of documentary as key space for political discourse (Chanan, 2008), the idea of the internet as ‘the parallel polis’ (Benda, 1978), and the recent discourses on art as social practice,

The central part of my presentation will focus on illustrating the challenges and tensions between symbolic and actual modes of civic engagement in interactive documentary productions. I will present some practical examples from my project in development, an interactive documentary about the 2014 social unrest in northwest Bosnia and the current struggles of the region’s disenfranchised citizens against the ever-powerful plutocracy.