The Uncertainty of Documentarism

“The Uncertainty of Documentarism,” written by the German filmmaker Hito Steyerl, provides a great framework with which to think about the affective aspects of visual media. Her thesis is that new forms of mass media, such as the documentary forms that are ubiquitous today on the news, are “expressive” as opposed to “representative.”

This media, which gains its power through conscious decisions about its construction, is made up of abstract and low resolution images that “bear no similarity to reality.” In turn they are intended to stir excitement and can lead to “false intimacy and even false presence.” This is in contrast to what we expect of the news, which is to be a close representation of the truth of a situation.

In the context of our animation project, this may be useful for considering the affective components of the work and how to achieve our goals without being too literal in our translation of our chosen texts. It is an incredibly interesting perspective on modern documentary practices.

For those interested, she has also written on the effects of image resolution, which I find particularly relevant to the work we are doing:


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