The Itinerant Document: Between Capture, Display, and Resistance (ACLA 2016)

full name / name of organization: 
César Barros / SUNY New Paltz

Organizer: Angeles Donoso Macaya, BMCC/CUNY

Co-Organizer: Silvia Spitta, Dartmouth College

Co-Organizer: Cesar Barros A. SUNY New Paltz

In her 1951 essay, What Is Documentation? Suzanne Briet asks: "Is a star a document? Is a pebble rolled by a torrent a document? Is a living animal a document? No. But the photographs and the catalogues of stars, the stones in a museum of mineralogy, and the animals that are catalogued and shown in a zoo, are documents" (10). Briet's definition is one of the many that underscores the fact that anything can become a document through acts of capture, enclosure and display—not only wild animals in zoos, but until recently, even humans in natural history museums. This process of becoming-document raises several questions: Who documents? What or who gets documented, and for what purpose? What are the institutions that control the access, reproduction and display of the document? What different functions can the document acquire?

As the example of the caged animal shows, documenting acts are entangled in specific constellations of power. Indeed, Michel Foucault and other scholars after him have posited the document as one of the foremost modern disciplining apparatuses. In all of these critical interventions, documenting serves to "capture" and "collect" in order to transform objects into epistemological, political and economic units that "frame" and discipline our reality. Yet documents have no fixed historical efficacy. They may have been made to enclose otherness, but they also can be used and transformed as tools for resistance. For instance, the same ID photographs designed to count, control, and discipline populations have been used in several historical conjunctures to attest to the existence of a disappeared citizen. Documents have an itinerant character; they come to life through different capture devices—writing, photography and film—and are disseminated in different platforms/spaces—catalogues, media, cinema, museums, and galleries. "Archival film footage", for instance, can also be reproduced in a newscast or in a documentary film, and subsequently reproduced or re-enacted in fiction films, installations, visual artworks and even be embodied in performance art. These different devices and exhibition platforms also determine the ways in which the document acquires its historical and political value.

This seminar seeks to bring together scholars working in the fields of visual studies, film and media studies, literary studies, history, and performance studies, interested in considering different questions concerning documentary practices, archives, and documents.

Due Date to submitt your proposal through ACLA's website September 23, 2015