Towards a Cinema of Imperfection: Participatory Film as Research
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This PhD is a practice as research interrogation of the emancipatory potential of the idea of imperfection. It is framed around the key leading question: ‘How can the generation of imperfect praxis – cultural production in and through social dialogues challenging notions of technical expertise – affirm emancipatory value in a film practice? The thesis documents the development of a participatory film practice, operating in-between d.i.y subcultural activity and practice as research. The film component of the submission engages with the problems involved in representing and authenticating the collective dimension of participatory filmmaking. The emancipatory potential of imperfection has been explored via a broad range of interdisciplinary participatory practices. The core project is Imperfect Cinema, an open-access micro-cinema collective, which navigated the intersection between film and do-it-yourself punk. This interplay between the contested idea of punk and its inherent activism, with the democratic/accessible implications of audio-visual media, is seen as an exemplary site for examining, and dismantling the boundaries between disciplines. In this sense, the nature of the work can be seen as being ‘in-disciplinary’ (Rancière 2008), requiring a mobility and responsiveness to the emergence of contemporary participatory and collaborative processes. The concept of imperfection draws from punk as a set of d.i.y methodological practices and is key to understanding and developing participatory cinema. Imperfection, as a generative conceptual tool, can be described as incorporating and examining methods ‘against methods’ (Feyerabend 1988) in order to acknowledge the uncertainty and fluidity of participatory work. This forms my understanding of what I term imperfect praxis. This praxis requires the emancipatory potential of imperfection to be easily communicable and accessible to different kinds of participants. The emergence of imperfect praxis developed out of collective social spaces where a kind of knowledge can be explored through collaborative and participatory interactions and dialogues, situated and understood through historical, contextual, personal and shared experiences. This thesis consequently represents a ‘moment in time’ in my methodological development, providing me with the structure to identify and disseminate the practice as research.
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