“Small Effects from Big Causes: The Dialogic Documentary Practice of Natalie Bookchin”
In her digital video work Mass Ornament (US, 2009), the Testament series (US, 2009), and Now He’s Out in Public and Everyone Can See (US, 2012), Natalie Bookchin gathers clips from vlogs where people perform dances and discuss issues both personal and political, from sexuality to racism and losing their jobs. In this essay, I argue that Bookchin’s work makes an important feminist intervention into discourses that either demonize or lionize social media. Utilizing strategies of seriality, database/narrative and orchestration, Bookchin crafts a set of composite found footage texts that challenge both documentary form that relies on typicality or composites, and i-docs that literalize interactivity. Instead, highlighting the body and the utterance as political “contact zones,” Bookchin uses sonic composition and choreography to challenge restricted notions of political speech, demonstrating the simultaneous insignificance and importance of the everyday. Her work therefore highlights the problematic of communicability that the excess of on-line textual expression presents while at the same time holding out the possibility that—through listening—engaged, dialogic documentary might provide a powerful antidote to the logics of neoliberalism.
Natalie Bookchin's videos: