[-empyre-] Against Documentary, Artivism vs. Social Practice and Autonets

Samara Smith samarasmith at gmail.com
Sat Nov 9 04:52:58 EST 2013

Hi all,

I regret that I didn't have more time earlier to respond to,
investigate, and think more about, the many interesting questions and
projects discussed this week.

I wanted to go back to something in micha's post (I found the whole
post very compelling, thank you).  My thoughts today are focused on
the question of audience and documentation.  micha writes that the
primary audience "is actually the workshop participants... the
audience for the performances is almost secondary and the audience
that sees the documentation is part of that."  I'm very sympathetic to
this focus on experience over the document (commodity?).

However, I'm curious about the possibility of documentation as a tool
for enhancing participatory experiences.  Is there a way to utilize
participatory documentation as a way to enhance or focus participant
experience?    In site-specific work, for example, can documentation
be utilized to enhance observation of the environment?

A recent project in NYC that raises this questions is the Newtown
Creek Armada, by Laura Chipley, Nathan Kensinger, and Sarah Nelson
Wright where participants were asked to create documentation of the
polluted water of a Superfund site with cameras on remote control
boats.  I'm wonder if this collaborative documentation focused
participant attention on the location and issue during the experience
and, thereby, had experiential value independent of the lasting
document (now being utilized in various installations and screenings).

I've struggled with this question in my work, for example, in my urban
game, Chain Reaction (New York), participants documented their walks
as part of the experience, however, in the more recent iteration
(tailored to Westwood, LA) I removed the documentation element to keep
the focus on the unmediated experience/walk/urban exploration.  For my
work-in-progress, a sound walk of Liberty Plaza/ Zuccotti Park, some
testers  have suggested that the experience would be strengthen by
asking participants to collectively document the current use of the
space, as part of the project design/experience.  Certainly the
site-specific design of the project is intended to focus attention on
the contrast between the plaza's "intended use" and the fall 2011
occupation use.  Would participant documentation deepen observations
of those contrasts?  Or distract?

I would love to hear how others are thinking about this questions
and/or hear about other projects that are utilizing documentation to
(possibly?) enhance participant focus.  Does the act of documenting
necessary, always, remove us from the moment/experience?

Here are some links to the projects discussed above:


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