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Documentary Practices Group

The Documentary Practices Group constitutes an Interdisciplinary Hub where faculty from multiple Pratt departments organize screenings, panels, exhibitions and conversations, and collectively reflect on the theoretical and practical dimensions of documentary practice across mediums (photo, film, writing). Members of the group also share research and continue to reflect on the relationship of new forms to the concept of the documentary. The group is also involved in the conceptualization of a cross-departmental minor dubbed Documentary Practices. The core members of the group include Kara Hearn, Ann Holder, Kathleen Kelley, Jacki Ochs, Amir Parsa, Tori Purcell, Jennifer Telesca, and Sasha Sumner.

This ‘hub’ provides a platform for the investigation of engagements that are intrinsic to documentary work across disciplines and mediums. Participants have expertise in various backgrounds (from anthropology and cultural studies to film-making and photography to new forms) and are connected through their interests in the questioning of the foundations, forms and functions of what is perhaps too often uncritically dubbed “documentary.” The group’s work encompasses an ongoing exploration of the creation of the minor, as well as the presentation of work by guest practitioners. It involves a questioning of the “representation of the real” as well as a constantly critical perspective wrought onto the history, theory and gestures involved in documentary work, including emerging practices.

In February 2016, The group organized a screening of, and panel discussion around, Jack Walsh’s film Feelings Are Facts: the Life of Yvonne Rainer at Pratt. Following the screening, the panelists discussed various dimensions of Rainer’s work as a film-maker and a pioneer of dance, and also delved into the decisions made by Jack Walsh through the process of making the documentary. Moderated by HMS professor Jennifer Miller, the panelists engaged in a spirited and fascinating conversation around the aesthetics, poetics and politics of art making in general, and the documentary practice that allowed the continuing debates around particular works and movements. Audience questions and interventions also generated more provocative discussion around not only Yvonne Rainer’s work, but the nature of the documentary itself—as a genre and cultural mainstay. Participants in this event included Jack Walsh, Jennifer Miller, Jorge Oliver, Deb Meehan, Noel Carroll , Patricia Hoffbauer, and Judy Lieff.