From May 15-17th, 2015, UCSC was the host of the 2nd iteration of the Poetics and Politics Documentary Research Symposium, providing an invaluable context for documentary-based research that both troubles and reinvigorates the discrepant categories of scholarly “theory” and cultural “practice.”
The symposium invited participants whose work frames, historicizes, or embodies questions about the various possible relations of theory to practice in documentary research. The symposium reflected a variety of approaches to documentary from a range of fields including film, video, new media, art practice, media and visual culture studies, visual anthropology and ethnography. The symposium aimed to provoke discussion on the scope of documentary making practices and aesthetics, to analyze and foster communities for its continuing critical practice and to bring scholar-practitioners into conversation about making as thinking.
Keynote speaker Kevin Jerome Everson‘s films combine scripted and documentary moments with rich elements of formalism. The subject matter is the gestures or tasks caused by certain conditions in the lives of working class African Americans and other people of African descent. The conditions are usually physical, social-economic circumstances or weather. Instead of standard realism he favors a strategy that abstracts everyday actions and statements into theatrical gestures, in which archival footage is re-edited or re-staged, real people perform fictional scenarios based on their own lives and historical observations intermesh with contemporary narratives. The films suggest the relentlessness of everyday life—along with its beauty—but also present oblique metaphors for art-making. His films, and his photographs and installations, have exhibited widely in the US and abroad, including Sundance Film Festival, International Film Festival Rotterdam, AFI Film Festival, Athens International Film Festival, Black Maria Film Festival, Curta Cinema, European Media Arts Festival, Migrating Forms, New York Underground Film Festival, Wavelengths, and more.