Visible Evidence, the international conference on documentary film and media, now in its 22nd year, will convene August 19-23rd, 2015 in Toronto, Canada. Hosted by the Cinema Studies Institute, University of Toronto; the School of Image Arts, Ryerson University; and the Department of Cinema and Media Arts, York University, Visible Evidence 22 will address the history, theory, and practice of documentary and non-fiction cinema, television, video, audio recording, digital media, photography, and performance, in a wide range of panels, workshops, plenary sessions, screenings, and special events.
Registration begins May 1, 2015
While proposals may address any aspect of documentary screen cultures, histories and practices, potential presenters should be aware that the conference will highlight the following themes:
1. Documenting the North. With Visible Evidence XXII hosted in one of the world’s largest polar countries, it seems fitting to consider anew the long and contested tradition of cinematic documentation of the North, which has played such a generative role in the evolution of the documentary medium. For the past several decades, the “North” has been talking back in films and videos produced by First Nations film and video artists and activists across the polar regions; who have eagerly and ingeniously embraced new digital technologies, satellite transmission and the Internet as key modes of self-definition crucial to the preservation and documentation of evolving cultural identities.
2. Expanded Documentary and Immersive Technologies. Documentary has always evolved in tandem with technological change but perhaps never more kinetically than in our current moment with the profusion of interactive and augmented reality documentary, documentary games, locative and 3D docs. Whether high or low tech, new technologies of production and dissemination are profoundly altering the way in which we experience documentary. What are we to make of the imperative for greater indexical veracity and the intense visceral pleasures of sensory immersion that new technologies seem to promise? Where are the productive slippages between the real and the virtual when presented with the phenomenological fantasy of immersion?
3. The Charge of the Real: Art, Documentary and the Social. Cultural and political issues traditionally addressed in documentary film and photography are now increasingly encountered in gallery contexts. While artists reanimate documentary methods and traditions to ground their speculative works in the actuality of social and political life, documentary makers are also experimenting with open-ended narrative structures, multimodal and diverse delivery platforms that endeavor to create socially charged encounters in new spaces, both virtual and physical, that are not confined to the cinema screen.
4. Counter-Surveillance and Citizen Journalism.
As live blogs on ‘Occupy’ protests and footage of Syrian atrocities posted on YouTube attest, anyone with a cell phone is now empowered to bear witness and disseminate critical evidence via visual and auditory media. Contemporary opposition movements have all been amplified and documented by citizen journalists exercising sousveillance by employing mobile cameras, the Internet and Twitter to deliver nearly instantaneous ‘amateur’ and ‘unauthorized’ video footage of evolving dramatic events. To what extent is citizen journalism the obverse of the surveillance society, where the omnipresence of cell phones and digital cameras ensures that the actions of an oppressive state will be documented, witnessed and broadcast to the world via the Internet?
5. Archival Activism. While public archives suffer under neoliberal funding assaults, digitization and the Internet have enabled a flourishing of new archival sources where ripping and stealing, posting and sharing, shape a new dynamic of archival mediations. These trends highlight the fallibility of the archive, revealing its ‘leakiness,’ as an authoritative repository of meaning and uncontested histories. Yet the archive continues to hold a deeply seductive lure for filmmakers and viewers who continue to engage in acts of recovery, re-appropriation and re-combination, particularly where the archival artifact is deployed ‘against the grain’ for the purposes of writing counter histories.
6. Genocide/ Trauma/ Memory Projects. Documenting the trauma of genocide presents a unique set of challenges weighted with profound political, juridical and ethical significance. From the multitude of films on the Holocaust to more recent work on the Rwandan, Cambodian and Indonesian genocides, there exists a complex and longstanding social imperative to develop interpretative frames via explanatory or aesthetic forms adequate to witnessing events that, in their extremity, resist assimilation into conventional modes of understanding. The paradoxical logic of traumatic testimony — whether shared by perpetrator or victim — is governed by obfuscations, repression, and the aporias of memory. Responses to these challenges have ranged from the encyclopedic impulse to the purposeful deployment of enactment and performance as a means to highlight the reality that arriving at the ‘truth’ of any genocide will remain a textually complex endeavor.
Panels, Papers, Workshops, and Screenings
Presentations will take place within 90-minute blocks shared by between 3 – 4 presenters and chaired either by a presenter or a moderator designated by the organizing committee. Panels and workshops may be pre-constituted, either through individual solicitation or public calls. Conveners of pre-constituted panels and their participants should coordinate their session to allow time for discussion, limiting individual contributions to 20-minutes.
Pre-constituted panels are organized around a well-defined critical, theoretical or historical topic that aims to generate dialogue among the panelists and audience members. Conveners are asked to submit a proposal that outlines the event as a whole and also provides for each presenter:
1) a title and abstract for the presentation (~300 words)
2) an autobiographical blurb (~50-100 word max)
3) a five-item bibliography.
Individual papers are asked to provide proposals using the same format as for panelists of a pre-constituted panel (see immediately above). Presenters will be grouped into panels constituted by the Programming Committee.
Pre-constituted workshops may include up to six (6) presenters making short opening statements leading to interaction among themselves and the audience. Conveners are asked to submit a proposal that outlines the event as a whole and provides for each presenter: a title and abstract for the presentation; an autobiographical paragraph and a five-item bibliography.
Individual screenings will generally take place within ninety-minute blocks. Presenters should prepare excerpts from their work, while allowing time for discussion. Proposals for screenings should include a title and description of the work, including a contextualization of its prominence within current documentary practice; an autobiographical paragraph; and distribution information the presenter wishes to have appear in the conference program. If feasible, a screener or link to the work should also be submitted.
All proposals must be submitted online through Easy Chair. Easy Chair is an open source site for ‘easy’ conference organization of submissions. Please create an individual account with a user name and password (and note these) in order to submit and to review your progress through the adjudication process.
Submissions open: January 19, 2015
Pre-Constituted Panels and Workshops: February 7, 2015.
Individual Papers and Screenings: February 15, 2015.
The Programming Committee will respond to all proposals by March 23, 2015.