Documentary can reinforce or challenge our perspective on different parts of our world. In this issue our focus is on artists, documentary filmmakers, and interactive storytellers, who work with redefining, reworking and re-using historical, political and personal memory.
Patricio Guzmán’s body of work makes us aware of the fragments of history that have been swept under the carpet, Ken Loach’s new documentary The Spirit of ’45 revisits post-war Britain and redefines our concept of socialism, and on the 200th anniversary of Wagner’s birth, the transmedia project The Wagner Files invites us to see the composer’s life and work in a completely new framework.
The interactive documentaries have a special place in this issue and they too are invested with memory and history. They want the viewer/user to actively engage. From Suharto’s theme park in Indonesia in 17.000 Islands the user is challenged to reconstruct certain images of history and thus play with representation and history. In Alma: A Tale of Violence the personal memory of violence is in focus. And it is the perpetrator who is allowed to bear witness.
In relation to history and the re-interpretation of history, interactive documentaries create interesting possibilities. Here is it possible to play around with points of view, with causality, and bring dynamic readings into play. History is not set in stone.
Interactive documentaries also have a unique potential to bring us out of our comfort zone. There is often an absence of stories that tie up their own loose ends in interactive documentaries and that in itself involves a loss of comfort. We are also made partly responsible for our own experience, a self-revelation that can be both amusing and uncomfortable.
Film as well as interactive works can both work to put the pain back into killing, but also to desensitize; it can prepare us for trauma and violence and help us overcome it. This is the theme of the book Killer Images, from which we’ve been allowed to publish an excerpt. In one chapter, Harun Farocki writes about his work with Immersion, where an interactive work is used as a way to help soldiers recover from trauma. Recovery through immersing their senses in the very experience they are trying to forget.
Documentary is an incrediblespace for the interaction of memory, history, and sensual experience. Whether via thesenses or the mind, it should move us. It can move us out of our comfort zone, our mindset or the mundane. As long as it moves us.