Dreams never end: Carol Morley’s documentary fabulation

Coley, Rob and Kearns, Janice and Lockwood, Dean (2012) Dreams never end: Carol Morley’s documentary fabulation. In: Powers of the False, 18-19 May 2012, Institut Francais, London.

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Abstract

During the nineties, something of a reflexive turn in the realm of factual media rendered subjectivity banally experimental. In an era of ‘compulsory individuality’, the subject became overtly malleable, explicable in terms of the ‘whatever-identities’ of Deleuzian societies of control. These developments, dubbed by Corner ‘post-documentary culture’, extended the purview of control, but – we argue – they also provoked genuinely subversive ethical experiments in documentary cinema.

In The Alcohol Years (2000), Carol Morley’s sex and booze-fogged activities in early 1980s Manchester are fabulated through the prism of an assemblage of fellow-revellers and observers. She is as much concerned with a dream of the city in its imperceptibility in the years between punk and acid house (where even a band that had never released a record could be granted Melody Maker’s ‘single of the week’) as with her own ‘legend’. Morley taps into resonant processes of mythologization which we frame as a multiple, minor discourse of a time and place that remains experientially alive in the resonating present, taking on a life of its own.

Morley continues to explore non-representational techniques in her most recent film, Dreams of a Life (2011), which deals with the mysterious life and death of Joyce Carol Vincent and is preoccupied with the same historical period as the earlier film. A series of seemingly inconsistent accounts of Vincent’s life set up a troubling disparity between her apparent social popularity and her unexplained and unnoticed death in a dingy north London bedsit. Here, as Morley has suggested, the film’s contributors themselves “dream up Joyce’s life”. Individual perceptions, it is demonstrated, can only ever be singular actualizations of a virtual multiplicity.

These films exploit the space of the reflexive turn to re-dream pasts which coexist in the present as virtual potential. On the basis of a rejection of the obligation to unequivocally establish truth through authoritative narrative, present perceptions, in her work, affirmatively tap into the futurity of multiple, mutually contradictory pasts. Morley shows that a truth is not something to be ‘documented’ but instead “has to be created in every domain” (Deleuze). Her orchestrations of interview and dramatic reconstruction intimate an ethico-aesthetic (post-) documentary intent which discloses immanent potential to the past in excess of actual past perceptions.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Additional Information:During the nineties, something of a reflexive turn in the realm of factual media rendered subjectivity banally experimental. In an era of ‘compulsory individuality’, the subject became overtly malleable, explicable in terms of the ‘whatever-identities’ of Deleuzian societies of control. These developments, dubbed by Corner ‘post-documentary culture’, extended the purview of control, but – we argue – they also provoked genuinely subversive ethical experiments in documentary cinema. In The Alcohol Years (2000), Carol Morley’s sex and booze-fogged activities in early 1980s Manchester are fabulated through the prism of an assemblage of fellow-revellers and observers. She is as much concerned with a dream of the city in its imperceptibility in the years between punk and acid house (where even a band that had never released a record could be granted Melody Maker’s ‘single of the week’) as with her own ‘legend’. Morley taps into resonant processes of mythologization which we frame as a multiple, minor discourse of a time and place that remains experientially alive in the resonating present, taking on a life of its own. Morley continues to explore non-representational techniques in her most recent film, Dreams of a Life (2011), which deals with the mysterious life and death of Joyce Carol Vincent and is preoccupied with the same historical period as the earlier film. A series of seemingly inconsistent accounts of Vincent’s life set up a troubling disparity between her apparent social popularity and her unexplained and unnoticed death in a dingy north London bedsit. Here, as Morley has suggested, the film’s contributors themselves “dream up Joyce’s life”. Individual perceptions, it is demonstrated, can only ever be singular actualizations of a virtual multiplicity. These films exploit the space of the reflexive turn to re-dream pasts which coexist in the present as virtual potential. On the basis of a rejection of the obligation to unequivocally establish truth through authoritative narrative, present perceptions, in her work, affirmatively tap into the futurity of multiple, mutually contradictory pasts. Morley shows that a truth is not something to be ‘documented’ but instead “has to be created in every domain” (Deleuze). Her orchestrations of interview and dramatic reconstruction intimate an ethico-aesthetic (post-) documentary intent which discloses immanent potential to the past in excess of actual past perceptions.
Keywords:carol morley, documentary, Deleuze
Subjects:P Mass Communications and Documentation > P303 Film studies
Divisions:College of Arts > Lincoln School of Media
ID Code:5930
Deposited By: Rob Coley
Deposited On:26 Jun 2012 19:21
Last Modified:26 Jun 2012 19:21

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