About

MDOCS Forum 4: Humor Laughing With Reality

Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs NY

Forum dates- June 6th – 9th

Deadline to submit a proposal- 2019 Submissions are closed. Please check back next year!

About Forum

Each June, Skidmore College’s John B. Moore Documentary Studies Collaborative (MDOCS) hosts a weekend-long Documentary Forum– public events combining festival presentations of artistic work with symposium-style conversations around an annual theme. The forum is free and open to the public.

In 2017, we brought together makers, scholars, activists and students to explore Space & Place in Documentary. See the full list of events for 2017 Festosium II: Space & Place. In 2018, we engaged with the theme Surveil/Surveilled in documentary and analyze documentary as a form of surveillance, consider the ethics and legalities of observing and the vulnerability of being observed, learn how to protect from surveillance, and engage with the documentary material that surveillance systems yield to explore its storytelling and truth telling potentials. Read about the 2018 keynote speakers, Filmmaker Assia Boundaoui and Artist Hasan Elahi and see the Full 2018 schedule here!

This year our theme is Humor Laughing With Reality.  In a world continually on the brink of apocalypse, in which absurdity is a daily occurrence, how can we not laugh at reality if we want to survive it? This year’s theme honors the long tradition of non-fiction makers who, through satire and silliness, have employed humor as means to transgress social norms, toy with the taboo, and empower us through laughter. See full schedule for 2019 here!

How to submit a proposal:

Deadline- January 7th 2019 Submissions are closed. Please check back next year!

We accept proposals for creative presentations in all mediums and disciplines, pre-constituted panels, individual papers or projects to be organized into a panel by the submission committee, work in progress presentations, and workshops.

We value multidisciplinary forms and will consider all mediums as long as the work is grounded in nonfiction and the yearly theme.

About this year’s theme, Humor: Laughing With Reality

“Any attempt to explain humor is either grossly reductionist or so broad it is meaningless.” – Susan Sontag

Documentary has long been affiliated with what Bill Nichols terms “discourses of sobriety,” a somber relationship to the real that is “direct, immediate and transparent.” Pooja Rangan critiques the equivalency documentarist draw between marginalized people or places and the serious, while reserving the domain of humor for others: “the ethos of sobriety calls on the documentarist to ‘give up’ the solipsistic pleasures of artistic abstraction, ambiguity, evocation, complexity, and play in order to evolve a sober aesthetic of immediacy, spontaneity, denotation, actuality, transparency, and instrumentality.” Jill Godmillow challenges us to consider the political, as well as aesthetic, stakes involved in this ethos. “Though the liberal documentary takes the stance of a sober, non-fiction vehicle for edification about the real world, it is trapped in the same matrix of obligations as the fiction film — to entertain its audience; to produce fascination with its materials; to achieve closure; to satisfy. Certainly, it is a vehicle for compassion. My question is: is that of any political use? Further, is not the production of compassion, perhaps, subversive of progressive political change?” With this year’s theme, we explore humor’s role in facilitating or hindering compassion and social change. 

In a world continually on the brink of apocalypse, in which absurdity is a daily occurrence, how can we not laugh at reality if we want to survive it? This year’s theme honors the long tradition of non-fiction makers who, through satire and silliness, have employed humor as means to transgress social norms, toy with the taboo, and empower us through laughter.

As seen in the works of filmmakers like Agnes Varda, Frances Bodomo, Laila Pakalnina and Miguel Gomes, the playful is political and the camera has its own sense of timing and delivery. Agit Prop artists The Yes Men worked with the absurd as instigation when they crashed a WTO conference in gold lamé suits to call attention to modern-day slavery. Non-fiction graphic novelists like Marjane Satrapi and Roz Chast use humor to invite the reader to relate to their intimate family tragedies. In a very different vein, the stand-up comedian Hannah Gadsby highlights humor’s “abusive relationship” between performer and audience by deconstructing her own vulnerability on stage. She challenges audiences to consider their role in the spectacle of comedy with the provocation, “laughter is not our medicine, stories hold our cure.” At its worst, humor can create unproductive distance between maker, audience, and subject. It can reproduce stereotypes and invite the audience to gape at the freakish Other. With this theme we ask, where do the ethics of comedy and the ethics of documentary converge. Where do they diverge?

The John B. Moore Documentary Collaborative invites national and international documentary and non-fiction makers working in any medium to apply for the MDOCS Storytellers’ Institute and MDOCS Forum. This summer, we will consider how humor can be used in non-fiction forms as a release from oppressive realities and how it can disrupt the status quo, but also how it can reproduce inequities and deepen cultural divides. Join us for an experience of deep intellectual inquiry, creative inspiration and shared laughter. 

“History repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce.” – Karl Marx.

 

Lex Powel and Candace Thompson perform OK Gurgle at Forum 2018
Work from the 2018 Student Fellow curated show, “Sensing Surveillance”
2018 workshop with Our Data Bodies
Dayna McLeod performs the Uterine Concert Hall 2018
Teachings and Takeaways- closing conversation 2018
“I’ve Got a Home” by Daesha Devón Harris 2017
2018 Keynote speaker Hasan Elahi
Cecilia Aldorando and Brett Story Discuss “A Prison in Twelve Landscapes” 2017