Documentary Codes and Contemporary Video Art

By Matthew John Perkins.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In the euphoric environment of experimentation with the medium of video in the 1960s and 1970s video activism and community video coexisted. However, with time these practices splintered and the documentary formats they developed were incorporated into the mainstream and, consequently, were no longer considered as contemporary art.

In the last ten years there has been a return to documentary in contemporary video art with artists responding to the effects of globalisation and cultural imperialism. The documentary art works’ relationship to the real also points to a reaction against the relentless flow of reality through communication networks and the inability of these networks to respond in meaningful ways.

This paper will look at these issues with a particular focus on the syntactical nature of documentary film, and how this language has been utilised in contemporary video art. While an ethnographic interest is not new to the cinematic and television contexts of the documentary, the increased adaptation of this genre in contemporary art calls for an examination in relation to the effects of globalisation. This will be done through an analysis of contemporary artists such as Susan Norrie’s (Australia), Mark Boulos, (UK) and Aernout Mik (Netherlands).

Keywords: Video Art, Contemporary Art, Documentary

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp.177-182. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 588.688KB).

Matthew John Perkins

Coordinator of Photomedia, Multimedia and Digital Arts, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Matthew Perkins’ video and photographic works have been included in exhibitions such as Testing Ground, Melbourne (2009), Figuratively Speaking: The Figure in Contemporary Video Art, Brisbane (2007), Stranger Geography, Italy (2007) and Skin Alive, Canberra & Melbourne (2007). His performative works explore issues of gender and subjective volatility. He has also curated a number of exhibitions that focus on digital media and the body such as Vernacular Terrain, China, Japan, Australia (2007-8), Anxious Bodies, Melbourne, Hobart (2006-7), and Unsharp/Unconscious, Brisbane, Launceston (2006). He has also contributed to a number of conferences and books including ‘Post: After the Fact’, published in Testing Ground (Ellikon: Melbourne, 2009) and ‘Historical continuums: video art at the George Paton Gallery’ in Helen Vivien (ed), When You Think About Art: The Ewing & George Paton Galleries 1971-2006 (Melbourne: Macmillan, 2008). With Professor Anne Marsh he founded the Australian Video Art Archive in 2006 – a project dedicated to the archiving and distribution of Australian video and performance art.


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