March 7, 2016

Publication:Documentary Across Disciplines

Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW)

Documentary Across Disciplines. © Ed Park, 2016.

A book edited by Erika Balsom and Hila Peleg
HKW, Berlin and
The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA and London, 2016
Publication date: March 11, 2016

Documentary Across Disciplines brings together interventions at the vanguard of conceptualizing what documentary is, means, and can do today, while also engaging in the re-evaluation of historical works in light of the contemporary moment. Exploring the many lives of documentary images, texts, and sounds—from the imperialist management of human life to redemptive encounters with the fragility of our world, from professional and disciplinary contexts to personal confrontations with mortality and alterity—it seeks to provide a capacious account of the irrepressible heterogeneity of this vital field of practice. Across anthropology, photography, poetry, cinema, digital media, art, sound recording, and beyond, its contributors consider the fertile and contested intersections of reality and representation.

Documentary Across Disciplines emerges from the Berlin Documentary Forum, a program for the production and presentation of contemporary and historical documentary practices in an interdisciplinary context, held biannually between 2010 and 2014 at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, under the artistic direction of Hila Peleg. While this book by no means compiles the proceedings of the three editions of this event, it builds upon its innovative cross-disciplinary methodology and its rich set of participants and ideas.

The Berlin Documentary Forum was conceived as a way of taking stock of the diversity and vibrancy of contemporary practices, while also placing them in a historical context. Documentary Across Disciplines takes up this methodology, with contributions that discuss material spanning from the immediate post-war period to today, some situated very close to the artistic and cinematic contexts and others far outside it.

Rather than taking for granted how one might define “documentary” or attempting to legislate what would constitute correct or incorrect deployments of this slippery term, the program of the Berlin Documentary Forum critically engaged with a diverse array of practices spanning the domains of film, photography, contemporary art, anthropology, performance, architecture, cultural history, and theory. Though these contributions were varied in discipline, strategy, and medium, what united them was a shared investment in orchestrating urgent encounters with actuality and finding in this undertaking a generative and meaningful resource for cultural production. This book follows the Berlin Documentary Forum in this respect too, looking to documentary not as a category or genre—not as a label that one might bestow on one particular practice and refuse another—but as a critical method.

Texts by Ariella Azoulay, Zach Blas, Christa Blümlinger, Stella Bruzzi, Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Kris Fallon, Evgenia Giannouri, Ben Lerner, Sylvère Lotringer, Antonia Majaca, Sohrab Mohebbi, Volker Pantenburg, Véréna Paravel, Christopher Pinney, Ben Rivers, and Eyal Sivan


Press contact
Anne Maier: T +49 30 39787 153, [email protected]


Haus der Kulturen der Welt presents Documentary Across Disciplines

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