Motions of Search: A Korean/American Epistemology is a transdisciplinary and transmedia project that presents a kinetic exploration and application of visual documentary practices through a synthetic model of critical theory, creative writing, (auto)ethnography, and film production. Motions interrogates the visual, historical, and epistemological contexts and structures of the documentary work of three filmmakers – Charles Burnett, Jean-Pierre Gorin, and Jy-Ah Min. While emerging from discrepant histories and geographies, academic pathways and artistic traditions, this trio share a political and aesthetic orientation with narratives that exist outside the realm of official documentations of history, culture, and society. I am particularly interested in how they appropriate and intervene on documentary not as a stable genre and tradition but as a contingent form and practice that constantly evolves in response to historical moments of crisis and transformation. Turning away from the mass-produced and state-sanctioned spectacles designed by and for “the technologies of hypervisibility… [that posit] that everything is available and accessible for consumption,” these filmmakers turn into the forgotten, maligned, or trivialized scenes and subjects of everyday life from the 1970s to the contemporary moment.
My chapters look at the filmmakers and their work, examining documentary in three registers: (1) the narrative form and the aesthetics of sur-realism in Charles Burnett’s Killer of Sheep (1977); (2) the essay form and the aesthetics of improvisation in Jean-Pierre Gorin’s Letter to Jane (1972) and Ici et Ailleurs (1972), as well as his solo My Crasy Life (1992); and (3) the experimental form and the aesthetics of remix in Jy-Ah Min’s M/F Remix (2010). My conclusion then offers an assemblage of critical and creative reflections on making my documentary film-in-progress about my mother and her difficult recovery from battling multiple cancers. These sections can be read as a series of case studies or dispatches that build in succession, both in terms of my discussion of specific documentary film texts and contexts, material practices and aesthetic ideologies, as well as my implementation of hybrid, shifting modes of formal address and techniques.