Patricia Zimmermann discussed her book, "Documentary Across Platforms: Reverse Engineering Media, Place, and Politics," a collection of her essays and speculations about documentary, experimental, and new media published outside of traditional scholarly venues. She envisioned documentary as a complex ecology composed of different technologies, sets of practices, and specific relationships to communities, engagement, politics, and social struggles. Through the lens of reverse engineering—the concept that ideas just like objects can be disassembled to learn how they work and then rebuilt into something new and better—Zimmermann explored how numerous small-scale documentary works present strategies of intervention into existing power structures. Adaptive to their context, modular, and unfixed, the documentary practices she explored exploited both sophisticated high-end professional and consumer-grade amateur technologies, moving through different political terrains, different platforms, and different exhibition contexts. Her research demonstrated documentary’s role as a conceptual practice to think through how the world is organized and to imagine ways that it might be reorganized with actions, communities, and ideas.
Professor Zimmermann’s visit was part of the IU Cinema film series, “We Tell: 50 Years of Participatory Community Media,” curated by her, Louis Massiah of Scribe Video Center, and Carmel Curtis, Brendan Allen, Flamina Fortunato, Caroline Gil, Michael Grant, Marie Lascu, and Treva Walsh of XFR Collective, with support from IU Cinema, National Endowment for the Arts, IU Libraries Moving Image Archive, the Black Film Center/Archive, Center for Documentary Research and Practice, and The Media School. This partnership was supported through IU Cinema’s Creative Collaborations program. She was present at the screening of "We Tell: Environments of Race and Place" at the IU Cinema at 7:00 pm.
Patricia R. Zimmermann is professor of Screen Studies in the Roy H. Park School of Communications at Ithaca College, Ithaca, New York, USA. She is also co-director (with Tom Shevory) of the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival, a major international festival housed at Ithaca College. She has also held endowed chair appointments as the Shaw Foundation Professor of New Media in the School of Communication and Information at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and the Ida Beam Professor of Cinema and Comparative Literature at the University of Iowa.