Staged Authenticity

Concept for a documentary drawing and film workshop for students with Angelika Levi and Susan Turcot at Royal Academy of Art, Copenhagen, Denmark

“There is no such thing as documentary film, not as a type of material, not as a genre, not as an approach and not as a set of techniques.“

The Totalizing Quest of Meaning, Trinh T. Minh-ha

“Having learned portraiture as a way to share time with shift workers, I´m aware that a portrait artist can pass under the radar to acces workers in a way that a researcher or journalist may not“

Susan Turcot


Artist Susan Turcot, who worked for years on drawings around human and economic geographies of oil in Canada, and me as an essay filmmaker, we want to investigate through theory and praxis the production process of „authenticity“ in film and drawing art, looking at spheres of transitory spaces like an oil camp and places of tourism and leisure industry.

What is a „document“ or „testimony“ in documentary drawing or documentary film includes the question of producing „reality“ and the connection between the artist and the portrayed subject or object. The strategies which show or hide something as „authentic“ are asking the interleaving of document and fiction and open eyes and ears to living conditions and forms of political representation.

Observing is about seeing subtlety, finding where it is light and where it is dark. The process moves you inward, expands and contracts time while unfolding a unifying space between the observer and observed. Being drawn encourages being listened to, being seen, and being felt. (Susan Turcot)

Staged Authenticity is a socialogical term. Ervin Goffman describes fiction and reality as interrelated spaces and formations, where we as actors play on different stages („one of the stages would be „real life“ which is indicated in the media world or the tourist industry as authentic).


First step: theory.

We want to read some texts and show films which are controversial in its relation to the protagonists and the filmmakers approach towards economical and political questions.

John Urry, The Tourist Gaze. Leisure and Travel in Contemporary Societies (London: Sage, 1990)
Trinh T. Minh-ha, The Totalizing Quest of Meaning
Malte Steinbink. ‘We did the Slum!’ – Urban PovertyTourism in Historical Perspective
Institute for Geography & Institute for Migration Research and Intercultural Studies (IMIS),University of Osnabrück, Germany
Dean MacCannel, The Tourist. A new Theory of the Leisure Class, New York 1976 – Chapter 5, „Staged Authenticity“

Films and artworks (extendable).

Las Hurdes / Terre sans pain von Luis Bunuel (Spain 1934)
What I’m looking for Shelly Silver 2004
Spielberg’s List Omer Fast 2003
Passagen Lisl Ponger (Österreich 1996)
Phantom Fremdes Wien Lisl Ponger (Österreich 2004)
Hay que gastar dinero (you have to spend money) Angelika Levi, Barcelona, 2005
Complicity and the daily draw Susan Turcot 2003-2005
Turning down the noise for a short while. 10 days drawing in an Oil Camp Susan Turcot, 2013

Second step: praxis.

The process of filming and drawing can lead to a collectiv work, or remain as individual work. We want to film/ draw with the students in a space of tourism or leasure industry in Copenhagen, which can question different relations and perspectives of work, leasure time, mobility, urbanism, landscape. The choosen place (together with the students) could be a hotel, a central urban space, a fitness studio etc. The films will be limited to 5 minutes. The drawings, texts or sounds can be included.

Tourism itself has to do with the production of images and has a fundamental visual character. It camourflies front- and backstage areas and reflects neoliberal economy and human desire. The connections between mobility and immobility as a mark of modern and postmodern experience are also part of our questions.

Proposal: time structure (3×1 Week).

1. screenings, readings, and discussions, first practical ideas
2. speaking about the ideas, excursions, filming/ drawing
3. looking at drawings/ material, discussions, editing


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