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Experimental Documentary as Inquiry: Migratory aesthetics and intercultural relations

Open Panel

Abstract

In my presentation, I examine experimental documentary films by an international group of film makers called Cinema Suitcase (2004–). In their experimental social documentary films, they explore the effects of global migration and the historical, social, ethical, and political aspects of interculturality within present-day reality. Under the title of ‘migratory aesthetics’, their work consists of various collaborative projects in different contexts of art and research. As an analytical concept migratory aesthetics is emergent; the concept can be defined in various ways, depending on the related phenomena and the theoretical framing implied. (See Mieke Bal in Durrant & Lord 2007; Aydemir & Rotas 2008). Migratory aesthetics can be reflected also against a larger context of cultural imagery, and related to such questions as how different media representations operate. For instance, as Marion von Osten’s (2006) research attests, the images of post-war migration can to a great extent be linked to a further fund of images already constituted by colonialism. In my analyses, I focus on the aesthetic means, through which intercultural relations are mediated or evoked, and can be studied in visual media. I approach experimental documentary ‘as inquiry’ of intercultural relations. The audio-visual-based documentary as a genre overlaps with the knowledge production associated with the social sciences. Nevertheless, documentary imagery often functions as a distanced and objectified mode of representation. In the context of migration, within its continuous changing cultural movements, the experimental form becomes essential in expressing and inquiring the emergent knowledge conditions. The challenge is to be able to create and study ways of presenting intercultural social relations that resist and counteract problematic modes of representation, such as othering stereotypes. In my presentation, I point out a range of aesthetic strategies that can be mobilised to investigate the visual representations of intercultural relations.