Andrew Cheshire: Abstact to Seeing Connections: Documentary as an Intervention in the Social World

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Chesire, Andrew. "Seeing Connections: Documentary as an Intervention in the Social World"

Key Words: dialogic, documentary, representation, social practice, tendential intervention

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According to the abstract, this thesis is about dialogization as an alternative to representation in documentation (particularly documentary film). More specifically, it is a thesis about dialogization as a means of reflecting/reflexing social practice (with "social practice" understood here as tacit consensus in ways of acting and understanding).

Cheshire identifies "tendential intervention" as a method for provoking behaviour and reflection--both in the process of making the document and its discursive dissemination as an utterance. How does this manifest in Cheshire's practical work, which explores the rehearsal of Changing the System, a piece of music by Christian Wolff? It seems Cheshire is positing dialogization as an alternative to external observation, objective overview and other "arms length" forms of engagement often associated with documentary making. Yet there are several issues to which the abstract alludes that remain for me unclear. It seems useful to identify these concerns now and read the rest of the thesis with these specific questions in mind:

1. Cheshire assumes that dialogization is something other than representation. He writes: "In particular, [the thesis] seeks to develop and theorise a mode of documentary practice in which social practices in general are dialogized rather than represented." But what makes these things different? My sense: dialogization is a specific form of representation, which affords particular consideration/mechanisms for self-representation. This includes being especially sensitive to representing the other.

2. The author's reference to authorial agency in dialogization as a process of expression is subtle. Cheshire argues that the practice of practice can be affected at the level of practice when we pay attention and commit to making changes. As interesting and important as this assumption is, at first blush it presupposes a level playing field (and deny power dynamics), viz. that the practice of practice is available to change. What troubles me about this assumption is that it fails to locate individual action within a social horizon (including but not limited to hierarchies). There seems to be a conflation between individual and social practice that I'm hoping Cheshire elsewhere unpacks.

3. I'm confused about where the dialogic is occurring in Cheshire's work. Is it at the level of the subject matter (his films are about dialogue) or in the subject matter's representation (the subject matter is self-consciously represented as dialogic) or is it in the dissemination of the films (when discourse about/around the film operates as a form of post production)? I'm hoping very much the artist researcher digs into the dialogic in a way that clarifies why, assuming all art is dialogic to some degree, his work is more dialogic in some way as he claims.

4. In what ways does the practical aspect of the thesis resit monologization in its final iteration as a filmic work with a beginning, middle and end? This relates to the old criticism of Bakhtin's reading of Dostoevsky's writings as dialogic: eventually they converge and are resolved in a surprisingly conventional manner. Does Cheshire tackle this issue of "dialogic resolution" in his research and if not, how does he rationalize the locus/loci for dialogue in his films? <r>

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