Riikka Theresa Innanen
Parallax is both a principle and a methodology for reflective practices of documentation within PIMDI. The aim was to facilitate a collective yet personal record of our intensive weeks together, without losing the layered complexity of multifaceted and often sensed but not (yet) verbally expressible experiences and processes.
The term Parallax is borrowed from astronomy, where two observation points – most often two points on the earth’s orbit – are used to calculate the distance of a celestial body. In literature, the word and concept feature prominently in James Joyce‘s 1922 novel, Ulysses (2010), in which the same story and the same timeline are viewed from several different perspectives.
As such, parallax offers new ways of analysis, provides research material for academic study, and thus suggests rethinking radical democratic practices in art education and future pedagogic methodologies. According to the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek (2006) parallax has deep implications for how we understand our world:
The philosophical twist to be added (to parallax), of course, is that the observed distance is not simply “subjective”, since the same object that exists “out there” is seen from two different stances or points of view. It is rather that […] subject and object are inherently ‘mediated’ so that an ‘epistemological’ shift in the subject’s point of view always reflects an ‘ontological’ shift in the object itself. (Žižek, 2006, p. 17)
In documentary practices, working with parallax offers an approach which goes beyond the here and now, offering a profound proposition for the future. Through parallaxing methods we explore if and how a community can collaborate, process, act and learn as a choir free from a basic requirement of consensus, assimilation or even agreement. Here, the multiplicity of truths growing from the multiple simultaneous points-of-view create a complex ecosystem of experiences and understanding, thus opening up to new possibilities of knowledge created via the development of diverse personal parallaxing interpretations.
To facilitate reflective documentation during the four PIMDI intensive weeks, we encouraged all participants to freely document situations (and non-situations) with one or more cameras, or with other means of documentation. We provided several cameras and compiled the material daily into a mosaic of layered images using minimal editing. Through this juxtaposition and layering of mostly video images and sounds, the editing and the meaning-making is left to the observer. They then make their final synthesis through an intuitive and ephemeral interpretation of calculated results yielded by the parallax’s measurements of all of the different viewpoints. [link to ‘Documentation’ om PIMDI homepage]
Example of reflective video documentation from the PIMDI intensive week in Helsinki, October 2021, edited and presented as a kaleidoscopic and polyphonic ‘choir’ of viewpoints opening for ‘parallaxing interpretations’ of the collective experience. Screenshot from video collage by Riikka Theresa Innanen
Relevance for the pedagogy of imaginative dialogue
We wanted to document the PIMDI intensive weeks in a way that would allow process and experience (still underway) to be recorded in a non-hierarchical and non-intrusive way, while also remaining aware of the inherent problematics of documentation: that there is no (one) objective truth. By introducing documentation done by the participants of their own process from multiple points of views, the parallax and ultimately the mosaic compilation of the video material blurred the roles of who was being filmed and by whom. Additionally, the parallax layered “truths” and hierarchies of the subject and object with the methodological recognition that the frame was only capturing a narrow snapshot of space in one moment in time, and is thus incomplete by definition.
Joyce, J. (2010). Ulysses. Wordsworth Editions. (Originally published 1922)Žižek, S. (2006). The Parallax View. The MIT Press.