ApproximationDocumentary, History and Staging Reality

The Creative Treatment of Documentary

This analysis of approximation draws together a wide range of contemporary art (painting, video installation, film, opera, music) that uses and is indebted to non-fiction film, documents and history.


The work featured in this section often has a tangential, contrapuntal relationship to documentary subjects, in complete contrast ostensibly to the collated archive discussed at the outset. But here, distanciation and difference become ways of making us question authenticity, look at evidence in a new light and, most fundamentally of all, understand that approximation does not sit in opposition to authenticity, but is rather a product of it and a commentary upon it. Collins’ video installations, Gordon and Parrero’s real-time film of a 2005 football match between Real Madrid and Villareal, Galindo’s re-enactments of political torture, Reich’s minimalist musical triptych against a huge projection screen are all illustrations of the creative treatment of documentary. This is a closing section, but also a forward-looking coda that would end by mounting a challenge to documentary’s historical insularity and the segregation, from the 1920s on, of documentary from the avant-garde.


Phil Collins ‘They Shoot Horses’ (2004), ‘The World Won’t Listen’ (2004), ‘The Return of the Real’ (2006); Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno Zidane: un portrait du 21e siècle (2006); Sam Taylor-Wood ‘David’ (2004); Regina José Galindo ‘Social Cleansing’, ‘Who can erase the traces?’ (2003); Stephen Sondheim Assassins (1990, 2004—6); John Keane ‘Truth, Lies and Super-8’ (1997), ‘The Inconvenience of History’ (2004), ‘Angola’ (2008); Dexter Dalwood ‘The Death of David Kelly’ (2008); John Adams Doctor Atomic (2005); Steve Reich ‘Three Tales’ (1998).


Stella Bruzzi FBA

Stella Bruzzi

Stella Bruzzi is Professor of Film and Television Studies at the University of Warwick and was made a Fellow of the British Academy in 2013. She was Head of Department 2006–2008 and Chair of the Faculty of Arts at Warwick 2008–2011. She lives in Oxford with her husband and two children.


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