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BBFC RatingBeyond Documentary: Wang Bing’s 15 Hours and the Chimera of Endlessness

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CertificateNot Rated
Year2020
GenreDocumentary
DirectorWang Bing
CountryHong Kong
Running Time1HR 30MINS
Extra InfoFree Talk
SeasonMain Programme

Free talk by Dr. Erika Balsom, Senior Lecturer in Film Studies, King's College London.

At least since Okwui Enwezor’s Documenta 11 in 2002, documentary practices have been a prominent feature of contemporary art. But what idea of documentary has emerged from this context?

Many curators have proposed that the best access to reality occurs through artifice, casting observational documentary as a bad object that naively indulges in illusory transparency and uncreative copying. At the same time, observation has notably emerged as a key strategy in the work of many prominent contemporary artist.

This talk will explore this seeming paradox through a discussion of Wang Bing’s 15 Hours (2017), a fifteen-hour document of a workday in a Chinese garment workshop. The installation lies at the intersection of discourses of digital cinema and the documentary turn in contemporary art but poses significant challenges to key assumptions of both.

Against the tendency to construe the digital image as marked by the painterly expressivity of compositing, 15 Hours reasserts the primacy of lens-based capture and possibilities of durational recording unique to digital video. And, more importantly, against the attachment to hybridity and fictionalization endemic to discussions of documentary turn in contemporary art, it offers a rehabilitation of the denigrated mode of observation – leaving behind the doubt, reflexivity, and hybridity that have marked many recent artists’ documentary practices to elicit care for that most fragile and cruel of things: worldly reality.

This free talk is presented by the Centre for Documentary Research at Queen’s University.