Navigating spheres, shifts in emphasis: The documentary, the video essay and the social | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 3, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 2042-793X
  • E-ISSN: 2042-7948



The documentary is often perceived as an officiated item, a ‘public’ record of sorts. The essay is seen as a personal and introspective device. This article will argue that certain artistic practices that work within an expanded and historicised sense of the documentary – specifically, the genre of the ‘video essay’ – provide new vicissitudes through which to examine the heteronymous character of the aesthetic mode as it has developed in political art praxis of the last fifteen to twenty years. More broadly, this article will examine how works such as these re-engage with the politics of representation debates of the 1920s/1930s and 1970s, despite the tendency for the rejection of ‘representation’ in relational or, indeed, post-relational art practices of recent years.


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