Visible Evidence XXVII Frankfurt am Main, December 15-18 2021

Visible Evidence XXVII will take place in a hybrid format. Around half of the conference presentation slots will be allocated to online presentations for those who cannot make it to Frankfurt in person. In addition, the conference keynote lectures will be live streamed to those attending virtually. The organizing committee is currently examining additional means to make virtual participants and attendants further engaged with the in-person panels and interactions. We ask applicants to state in advance whether they’ll participate virtually or in person. We are aware that applicants’ conditions might change. We will therefore also ask you to confirm your form of participation (in person or virtually) upon receiving notification of acceptance and in mid-October, two months before the conference.

With the new conference layout the VE XXVII steering committee is particularly interested in formats that draw on previous dialogue, such as pre-constituted panels, workshops and conversations (see below) that bring together scholars and practitioners. Along with the usual open call for paper presentations we offer adjusted formats for the hybrid model and ask applicants to read carefully through the format descriptions.

VE XXVII, 2021: Documentary and Democracy in Crisis

What we call ‘documentary’ emerged in the 1920s and 1930s in response to a perceived crisis of liberal democracy, as a mode of factual representation which empowers citizens to participate in the political process. As the last months have shown, the willingness or unwillingness of citizens to comply with policy makers have crucial effects. How does documentary respond to what has been widely diagnosed as the current crisis of democracy? What could be an adequate reaction in forms, themes and modes of production, to the return to nationalism and other forms of political tribalism in the face of global migration? In what ways does documentary shape our perceptions of the consequences of globalization, from climate change, health crisis, to the transformation of the economy? And how can documentary in theory and practice contribute to defend the spaces and modes of deliberation necessary for the life of democracy?

Visible Evidence, the international conference on documentary film and media, now in its 27th installment, will convene in Frankfurt, Germany, on December 15-18, 2021. Hosted by the Institute for Theatre, Film and Media Studies (TFM) at Goethe University, Frankfurt, Visible Evidence XXVII will address these and other current issues related to the history, theory, practice and pedagogy of documentary and non-fiction cinema, television, video, audio recording, digital media, photography, VR, games and performance in a wide range of panels, workshops, plenary sessions, screenings and special events. We welcome panel, workshop, conversation, screening and paper proposals that address documentary and non-fiction media from a diverse range of disciplines that can open the field to new lines of investigation through innovative and original perspectives.

Designed as a public event in collaboration with the city’s leading cultural institutions, the conference makes a conscious nod towards documentary history as an instrument of public opinion. The notion of crisis, a thread weaved through the history of documentary, and in light of current affairs seems ever more pertinent, calls for new political, formal and social possibilities that consolidate and expand documentary’s role as a space for representation and democratic deliberation. These new possibilities should be explored in a dialogue between theory and practice. We invite scholars, filmmakers, archivists and activists to propose panels and presentations that address any aspect of documentary and non-fiction media. Special threads and themes may include (but are in no way limited to):

Documentary and Conflict: How should we perceive conflict not just as a historically-specific geopolitical crisis, but as an interaction of aesthetic forces that reorders documentary temporalities, geographies and speech-acts? What role is taken by documentary in an age of rising fascism, post- and neo-colonialism, transnational military interventions and global humanitarianism?

Documentary Infrastructures: How does documentary depict and expose industrial infrastructures? In what ways does documentary itself comprise, or challenge, larger social and material infrastructures, including funding structures, distribution platforms and new visual technologies?

Documentary Publics: The advent of new media platforms and technologies bares, on the one hand, potential for a radical reorganization of social bodies. On the other hand, creates fraught contexts through which the social is organized by corporate logic and pseudo-democratic regimes. Framed within these social and medial settings, what forms of deliberation documentary brings to contemporary public and counter-public spheres?

Race, Gender and Sexuality: How can documentary serve as a means of transgression, a tool for community building, or a platform for organization/organizing in a political climate marked by exclusionary tribalisms? How can documentary resurrect non-hegemonic pasts and presents and open up spaces outside of a white, heteronormative and patriarchal matrix?

Documentary and the Non-Human: In the epoch of the Anthropocene and in the wake of environmental crisis, how can documentary exceed its “discourses of sobriety” that centers the human? How can it give form to the material world, traversing the representational hierarchies between the human and non-human? How do documentaries of nonhuman subjects interact with, reinforce or diverge from human political regimes?

Documentary and Operational Media: Considering the proliferation of tools for data analysis, image-based computational techniques and forensic media, how can we re-think documentary’s evidentiary claims at its intersections with fields such as science, medicine, design and law?

Documentary Pedagogy: How can we think of documentary pedagogy through a vernacular prism? How have documentary studies responded to the shifting labor conditions of teaching at individual, departmental, and disciplinary levels?  How have they been reshaped by videographic practices of criticism and scholarship? How do the evolving methodologies of teaching and writing about documentary speak to the labor it asks of us?

Documentary and the Politics of Information: The current crisis evolving from the Coronavirus pandemic brought to the surface many questions related to information, its representation, circulation and utilities as a means of governance, surveillance or trust. These questions go back to core assumptions of documentary. How does (and whether) the gesture of informing the public contribute to the forming of responsible and responsive citizenry? How do forms of visualization cater to different relations to authority, or different modes of address?

Guidelines for Submission:

Homepage: Visible Evidence XXVII:

Panel proposal:
Panels will consist of three presentations of no more than 15 minutes  for each presentation (online presenters might consider even shorter presentations) with ten-minutes response by the panelists’ chosen respondent. Panel proposals require a title; 300-word description of the panel itself; five keywords that identify the panel’s focus; 250-word abstract for each paper, or for filmmakers 200 words abstract and 20 minutes materials (via link); 100-word biography for each participant and 5 bibliographic entries for the entire panel.
Submit panel proposals here.

Workshop proposal:
The emphasis of the workshop is on an open and unstructured exchange of ideas and techniques between all workshop participants. Workshops will consist of five or six opening statements that sum up to 40 minutes in total (5-7 minutes for each statement), with the remaining time dedicated to discussion. Workshop proposals require a title; 300-word description of the workshop; five keywords that identify the workshop’s focus; 50-word description of each contribution; filmmakers are welcome to add 20 minutes materials (via link); 100-word biography for each participant and 5 bibliographic entries for the entire workshop.
Submit workshop proposals here.

Conversation proposal:
A new format introduced for VEXXVII that consists of a 45-minute conversation between three participants that relies on cross-disciplinary exchange between artists and scholars around shared investigations of concepts, sites, sensibilities and histories. The conversation will be based on work (screeners or papers) that were circulated in advance. Presenters will be asked to send a paper of 1,500 words MAX, or for artists either excerpts or a complete work, a couple of weeks before the conference. The conversation itself will be based on the pre-circulated essays and visual materials. Conversation proposals require a title, 200-word description of the general theme; five keywords that identify the conversation focus; 200-word abstract for each paper or film; and for filmmakers 20 minutes materials (via link); 100-word biography for each participant.
Submit conversation proposals here.

Presentation proposal (open call):
Individual presentation proposals can be submitted through the open call. Individual presentations will be allotted 15 minutes for each presenter. Accepted presentations will be programmed into panels with other individual presentation submissions. Individual presentation proposals require a title; five keywords that identify the presentation’s focus, 300-word abstract for papers and 200 words abstract and 20 minutes worth of screening materials (via link) for practitioners; 100-word biography and five bibliographic entries.
Submit individual paper proposals here.

A note to filmmakers and practitioners:
To stress the interconnectedness of theory and praxis, filmmakers and practitioners’ talks will be integrated into all formats side by side with paper presentations. Filmmakers are welcome to send their materials according to the above instructions for each one of the formats where they can present excerpts of their work and contextualize it. In addition VE XXVII will open a Vimeo channel where selected works will be screened. Practitioners presenters could also add a link to their work to the online program.

Conversations will be allotted forty-five minutes, panels and workshops will be allotted one hour and forty-five minutes.

All proposals are due by March 20, 2021.

Multiple submissions will not be accepted, except for panel respondents. Panels, workshops and conversations will be either held completely in person or completely virtually. If your panel/workshop/conversation takes place virtually you are still welcome to attend in person.

Applicants will be notified of acceptance by June 15th, 2021.
For questions please email

Looking forward to seeing you, in person or virtually,

Visible Evidence XXVII organizers,

Laliv Melamed and Vinzenz Hediger.

Homepage: Visible Evidence XXVII:

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