ACADEMIC RESEARCH

The Struggle for Freedom in “________”: (Re)defining Documentary Photography is an investigation into the conventions and visual strategies of photojournalism and documentary photography. This research forms the theoretical framework for the development of an ongoing artistic practice that poses to make these constructions explicit. This six year research project is structured in three main chapters: 1: a study into the 1950’s Emergency Crisis in British Imperial Kenya and how photographic conventions play a role in shaping historical narratives through re-enactments with Kenyan Mau Mau war veterans; 2: various case studies into the tropes and iconography of photojournalism and how they have developed over time, with artworks such as an artificial intelligence operated camera trained on all previous World Press Photo winners, or an in-depth analysis into the true location of Robert Capa’s Falling Soldier photograph; 3: a book interweaving six personal stories in the USA after 9/11, dealing with the apparent incapacity of the mainstream media to transmit intimate or idiosyncratic versions of reality.


THE SCHOOL OF SPECULATIVE DOCUMENTARY

Guest editors at FOMU Trigger, 2020:
The School of Speculative Documentary are currently guest editors for this years' FOMU Trigger, which will focus on the theme 'Uncertainty'.
What if we allow speculation, messiness and befoggedness to set the conditions for documentary gestures and practices?
Contemporary documentary practice has a crucial role to play within art, mainstream media and activism. It constitutes less a genre, and more ‘a critical method’ in its own right. How can we rethink the documentary attitude conceptually, formally and methodologically? Uncertainty has become documentary’s given. What if this unfinished business of the documentary, creates even more possibilities for speculation and imagination? How can we make decentralized, deformatted and polycentric documentaries, even if we assume that we will never fully succeed?
Trigger #2: 'Uncertainty' aims to explore the potentials, the problems and paradoxes of an openly speculative documentary.
Its printed magazine will be launched during Paris Photo in November 2020. In addition, the contributions will all be published in time on this platform. Trigger is a platform both online and in print dedicated to research, reflection and debate on all things photographic.

Kaaitheater symposium in Brussels, 2019:
On 25 February 2019, The School of Speculative Documentary organized an all-day symposium at Kaaitheater in Brussels, with An van Dienderen, Max Pinckers, Michiel De Cleene, Thomas Bellinck, e.a. During the symposium several questions were raised. How can we rethink the documentary gesture conceptually, formally and methodologically, exposing it to continuous uncertainty, contamination and contestation? How can we draw inspiration from the paradox that any attempt to document a reality, causes it to mutate and evaporate? How can we cut across the traditional boundaries that pigeonhole the documentary into rigid genres? What strategies can we develop to subvert market-driven formats? How can we critically question the power-structures inherent in documentary making? How do we undermine the documentary's authoritative claim to knowledge and truth? How do documentarists deal with their own blind spots and positions of power? How can we shoulder responsibility for the selection mechanisms that define what can and should be perceived, seen, heard, said, thought, made or done?
Max Pinckers is affiliated as a researcher to KASK / School of Arts of University College Ghent, financed by the Arts Research Fund of University College Ghent, 2015-2021.

The School of Speculative Documentary is an initiative by Thomas Bellinck, Michiel De Cleene, An van Dienderen, Rosine Mbakam and Max Pinckers. It’s a cross-disciplinary meeting place dedicated to critically questioning the documentary gesture. The artists associated with the School of Speculative Documentary openly embrace uncertainty, messiness and conjecture in their engagement with and creation of multiple and mutable realities.