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Sharon Daniel is Professor of Film and Digital Media at the University of California, Santa Cruz where she teaches classes in digital media theory and practice. Her research involves collaborations with local and on-line communities, which exploit information and communications technologies as new sites for “public art.” Daniel’s role as an artist is that of “context provider” — assisting communities, collecting their stories, soliciting their opinions on politics and social justice, and building the online archives and interfaces that make this data available across social, cultural and economic boundaries. Her goal is to avoid representation – not to attempt to speak for others but to allow them to speak for themselves.

Session Title: The aesthetics of politics: affects, objects, and dissensus in new media documentary

This paper will examine the aesthetic, political and ethical dimensions of interactive documentary by deploying Rancière’s theory of the “politics of aesthetics”. For Rancière both art and politics challenge the social order by introducing new subjects and heterogeneous objects into the field of perception and, therefore, their interrelation is not a question that needs asking. In Rancière’s thought art  and politics consist in the effects of equality that they stage and forms of innovation that tear bodies from their assigned places, freeing speech and expression.

To demonstrate the potential for interactive documentary to perform a Rancière-ian “staging of equality” and create a political/aesthetic space of dissensus – a space where the “uncounted” also partake of political speech — the author will present excerpts from her current work-in-progress, UNDOING TIME. This material archive and digital documentary, will present the testimony of 30 California state prisoners on the nature and meaning of justice and punishment through a cell-phone museum tour that will connect an installation of objects produced in California prison factories to a digital archive of interviews in which incarcerated men and women describe what it means to “do time” in California State Prisons.

Each object in the installation will be inscribed with quotes taken from these interviews and paired with video projections in which the object is deconstructed by a former prison laborer in a symbolic performance of “undoing” their prison time. For example, Beverly Henry, who worked in the prison flag factory during her incarceration rips out the stitches of a US flag sewn at the prison. Audiences will be invited to participate in similar performative materializations of data and dissent. Through such examples the paper will explorethe way in which modes of narration or new forms of visibility, materiality and affectivity established through artistic practices enter into politics’ own aesthetics.

Beverly_CCH from Sharon Daniel on Vimeo.

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