Powers of the False Symposium

Institut Francais & Cine Lumiere, London, UK May 25th-26th 2012 (dates to be confirmed)

“There is a power inherent in the false: the positive power of ruse, the power to gain a strategic advantage by masking one’s life force.”

(Brian Massumi, REALER THAN REAL, The Simulacrum According to Deleuze and Guattari)

This two-day symposium addresses the complex ethics of the manipulation of real people and events in documentary, fact-fiction hybrid cinema and artists’ moving image. Through close readings and screenings of contemporary and historical films that deliberately falsify actuality, the Powers of the False symposium will ask, can there be an ethic of falsification in the encounter between filmmaker and subject? How can we document something whose truth has many sides or may be inscrutable? Is the act of documenting always inevitably performative? The symposium will also examine instances where the subjects of films have deliberately deceived filmmakers. Inspired by Gilles Deleuze’s theories of minor cinema and his term ‘powers of the false’, the symposium will turn to other philosophers too, to approach its central conceptual and ethical questions, including Levinas’ philosophy of alterity.

Academic research methods regard most filmmaking practices as unethical, particularly documentary filmmaking because of its direct encounter with actuality. The principles of consent for sociological research are anathema to factual film production, because total editorial control can never be given to the subjects. Instead, prior-consent is necessary. Moving image artists tend to disregard contributor consent forms and often freely intervene in the lives of their subjects. The activity of filmmaking is clearly predisposed to manipulation, and film productions inexorably produce alteration and change. Powers of the False looks at filmmaking as a site for performing difference and as a manipulative and coercive agency. When and for what reason is forgery, manipulation and deception conceptually motivated, even ethically necessary? How are we as human subjects changed by filming and by being filmed?

Topics may include:

* Inventing the past and fictionalising the present in the factual film; ethno-fiction.

* Staged events and re-enactments.

* Instances where filmmakers have deliberately delayed, intervened in, or given testimony in legal proceedings, or have broken the law.

* Films that have to come to light as true/false over time; film hoaxes.

* Films where authorship has been shared with, or passed over to, a subject.

* Films where the subject has manipulated the filmmaker.

* Films that have significantly altered personal or historical events, whether positively or negatively.

* Directionless films guided by an encounter with a subject.

* The docudrama, the drama-documentary, the mock-documentary and the cinematic essay.

* Iterations of subjectivity within the factual frame, recollection images, use of free indirect discourse.

Suggested artists and filmmakers for consideration as topics of discussion include Jean Rouch, Chantal Ackerman, Werner Herzog, Agnes Varda, Sophie Calle, Chris Marker, Abbas Kiarostami, Errol Morris, Nick Broomfield, Ulrich Seidl, Andrew Kötting, Ben Hopkins, Clio Barnard. This list is by no means exhaustive.

The papers and short film/video works presented over the weekend will be edited into a published collection of essays (accompanied by a DVD).

Please email abstracts for papers or films no more than 20 minutes in length by Dec 1st 2011, attn of:

Steven Eastwood (University of East London): eastwood@uel.ac.uk
Catherine Wheatley (Kings College London): catherine.wheatley@kcl.ac.uk

Powers of the False symposium supported by The University of East London and Kings College London