University of Worcester Worcester Research and Publications

Crisis response unit: matters of aesthetics and construction in documentaries of the 2007/8 financial crash and the Great Recession

Brookes, Daniel (2019) Crisis response unit: matters of aesthetics and construction in documentaries of the 2007/8 financial crash and the Great Recession. PhD thesis, University of Worcester.

Text (PhD Thesis)
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This thesis argues that the particularity of visual and audio aesthetics and the construction of narrative, place, and character in the documentaries that have emerged since the financial crash of 2007/8 historicises and politicises the crash and subsequent recession in types of political and
historical thought particular to the development of the chosen documentary mode. On a more general level I argue that matters of aesthetics and construction in documentary, considerations often wrapped up in debates that position their existence as a removal or lessening of truth, have the
capability of deepening matters of truth by its ability to communicate its invisible dimensions.

I develop this argument utilising a heuristic device that begins in the mimetic, the notional ground of the documentary, gradually moving toward avant-garde documentary via polemics, antimimetics, and poetics. Each chapter presents one of these distinct documentary modes that has come to respond to the financial crash, containing a history of the evolution of the mode in terms of the relationship between theory and practice, and an overview of the favoured aesthetics and construction methods of that mode. Each of the modes that I identify in each chapter has received significant amounts of criticism that neutered their potential – realism and ethnography as ‘mere’
observation, polemical as partisan entertainment, the poetic as ruin porn, and the avant-garde as indulgent and bourgeois play. I argue that utilisation of most of these modes still signify and retain power to expose and reveal, particularly in modes whose method is foregrounded.

Within each chapter I perform analytic readings of key films such as Lauren Greenfield’s The Queen of Versailles (2012), Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady’s Detropia (2012), and Ai Weiwei’s Human Flow (2017) alongside adjacent works that contain similar patterns, tropes, and ideas.
Moving between historic antecedents and close analysis on the particularity of each text, I trace the connecting utilisations of particular techniques and narrative strategies between the past and present in order to suggest their ramifications in terms of the political and the traumatic.

Exploring ideas of aesthetics and construction in financial crash and recession documentary takes a different critical path than has been taken as yet in this corpus of films. In considering these documentaries as aesthetic objects rather than bearers of truth or reality, my work reflects upon the
range of possibilities that have opened up in the mutating field of documentary in the twenty-first century. Individual journal essays in the current decade have begun the work of examining individual films aesthetically, or tackling small corpuses of regional documentaries for their
political exigencies. However, this project is the first to combine a methodology and device that
seeks to capture the breadth of the range of crash and recession documentaries.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information:

Thesis submitted in fulfilment of the University’s requirement for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy. University of Worcester, 2019.

Uncontrolled Discrete Keywords: financial crash, aesthetics, austerity, documentaries
Divisions: College of Arts, Humanities and Education > School of Arts
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Depositing User: Janet Davidson
Date Deposited: 28 Oct 2021 08:05
Last Modified: 07 Mar 2024 16:12

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