Documentary transforms into video installation via the processes of intertextuality and detournement

  • Caitilin de Berigny Wall

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


My argument is that documentary texts can be transformed into artworks via the processes of intertextuality and detournement, when they are exhibited as video installations. I argue that early 1920s modernist avant-garde painter-filmmakers shared with contemporary documentary video installation painter-filmmakers particular tendencies, characteristics and interests. The bodies of work in each period explore the generic properties of documentary through (primarily) abstract visual associations, rather than through a conventional linear space. Important 1920s modernist avant-garde films by Dziga Vertov, Luis Bunuel, Salvador Dali, Joris Ivens, Man Ray and others will be considered in highlighting the relationship between documentary and avant-garde cinema. I use this discussion as a basis for examining my own work: for the creative component of this thesis, I filmed and edited a three screen video installation. I interviewed 67 Australian Muslims and used these interviews to explore the use of documentary in video installation. The theoretical framework I used is based on the following: Julia Kristeva's notion of intertextuality, derived from Mikhail Bahktin's work on dialogism, to interpret how documentary texts take on conventions appropriate to other genres; Guy Debord's concept of detournement to provide a theory for the reuse of pre-existing artistic elements found in documentary film; genre theory to interpret interactions between documentary texts; Ludwig Wittgenstein's notion of 'family resemblance' to explore the indistinct boundaries of documentary; and Pascal Beausse's analysis of how artists have hijacked documentary. I also draw on Bill Nichols's analytical framework of documentary modes (poetic, expository, observational, participatory, performative, reflexive) to explore documentary in cinema and installation art. The documentary genre is not habitually discussed outside film, television, photography or the web. My research demonstrates that the genre has found its place in other areas of artistic practice and can also apply to medium of video installation.
Date of Award2006
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJen Webb (Supervisor), Greg Battye (Supervisor) & Ann WILLIS (Supervisor)

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