A Playful Documentary Unit: Take One

On Saturday we hosted a first open event as A Playful Documentary Unit, a challenge over a day to make short playful documentaries about any subject reflected in our immediate locality. Documentaries might be playful in the relationship between maker, subject, and audience, or playful in form and format, or playful just being fun. But there’s ongoing interest in exploring what playful documentary might be, and certainly exhilaration in responding to who and what actually happens to be there in a place.


It happened in London at The Gate in Notting Hill, as part of the mighty Forest Fringe residency there; thanks to Dan Canham for including it in his curation. One challenge from the Unit, This Is A Place Where, happened in Melbourne (earlier in earth-time) as part of This Is A Door run by our friends Pop Up Playground, and was also taken up by a small breakaway faction in Bexleyheath. This Is A Place Where made miniature portraits of places where people do particular things; so portraits of a place where people believe were made of a church in Melbourne, a casino in Notting Hill, and a cake shop in Bexleyheath.


At The Gate, we were near the hurley-burley of the Portobello Road Market, and pieces involved tailing people by their shoes, taking photos of things which tourists had taken photos of, and making mischief with masks of the Queen, Prince William and Mr Bean. Documents of all these and more will be steadily posted to aplayfuldocumentaryunit.posterous.com (Link doesn’t exist), but for now we thought to share here with you an excerpt and a map from Tom Bowtell’s splendidly quixotian tailing of a singular pigeon for 90 minutes over the neighbourhood.





A Playful Documentary Unit will return, and also look to explore challenges for more sustained making. If you’re interested in signing up for the next, please drop a line to documentaryunit@coneyhq.org.

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