Documentary Creations

With Matthew Buckingham, Adam Chodzko, Charlotte Cullinan + Jeanine Richards artlab, Manon de Boer, Tacita Dean, Douglas Gordon, Marine Hugonnier, Hayley Newman, Melik Ohanian, Charles Sandison, Mathew Sawyer

Our awareness of the manipulability of television and digital images has bred caution and triggered widespread discussion of contexts and origins both in public and in the art context. Today we talk of reality as being relational, constructed, and different for each individual point of view. The exhibition Documentary Creations addresses such relational realities. It is not just what images are around us but how they are sited and what contexts they are embedded in. As early as the sixties, artists began taking an interest in how images are made, especially photographic images, as well as in the contexts within which such images occur. But for a long time art historians and theorists were not too interested in the documentary image in art. Its frequent use in video art over the past decade, however, has led to the mounting of exhibitions that explore the phenomenon (especially the moving documentary image), e.g. documenta 11 (Kassel 2002), It’s Hard to Touch the Real (Munich 2002), [based upon] TRUE STORIES (Rotterdam/São Paulo 2003), or Ficcions documentals (Barcelona 2004).

Documentary Creations makes its own contribution to the debate on the documentary in contemporary art. The dichotomy in its title is not just a matter of polar opposites, a dilemma: it also refers to the idea touched on above of relational, constructed reality. Far from being narrow illustrations of a hypothesis, the works exhibited open up complex fields of experience and stimulate the discussion of current documentary-essayistic strategies. Yet despite their sometimes stringently conceptual approaches, a magic power inheres in these works. This poetic aspect, to be distinguished from a more socially oriented political or educational aspect, unsettles, and, in doing so, challenges and taps perception to the full. At the heart of the videos of Adam Chodzko, Manon de Boer and Marine Hugonnier, which all unite different levels of authenticity, lie narrative strategies, reading instructions, and their significance. This kind of self-reflexive approach is not confined to film: it also occurs in Hayley Newman’s real/ forged performance photographs, in Marine Hugonnier’s photographic work Leader and in the interventions Mathew Sawyer records in photocopies. Other, more text-related works, such as Adam Chodzko’s posters and photos, or Douglas Gordon’s enigmatic/uncanny instructions, open mental spaces of their own, their authorial directives leading us onto uncertain ground and making us ask: «Is he serious? Or is the artist perhaps out to fool us?» Matthew Buckingham’s slide projection deals with research strategies and the issue and/or durability of historical documents. The historical/real and the fictive also mingle in projects by Melik Ohanian and Charlotte Cullinan + Jeanine Richards artlab. Works by Tacita Dean explore the significance of image and sound as authentic documents of memory, and Charles Sandison’s digital projection shows how the concept of the document can be made to appear in a completely new light.

Documentary Creations does not explicitly address current discourse concerning the dangers of or fascination with artificially created realities. It seeks to examine different mechanisms of authentication and to enable us to grasp the construct reality as a subsuming, sense-conferring dispositive. Starting with the complex process of the creation, mediation and experience of truth, the exhibition explores the paradox of documentary authenticity and the artistic creation of myth, at the same time illustrating the complexity and ambivalence of a range of documentary-essayistic works by younger artists.

curated by Susanne Neubauer

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