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Sep 23, 2016 at 10:00 am – Sep 25, 2016 at 5:00 pm

Spaces of Memory: Poetics and Politics in the Archives

With Irene Lusztig and Mathilde Walker-Billaud

“The Archive is a place where people can be alone with the past…” (Carolyn Steedman, Dust: a Cultural History)

This workshop is an immersive three days of thinking with and about archives, found image materials, and documentary film practice.

Over the course of three days, participants will think expansively about archives and archival materials to consider complex questions around archival ownership, appropriation, power, authorship, speculative histories, intimacy and empathy as we dive deeply into filmic explorations of the past. Students will have the opportunity to learn from a varied range of seasoned guest speakers, including archivists, archival researchers, nonfiction filmmakers, and visual artists — as well as an opportunity to workshop their own works-in-progress with these experienced guests.  

Filmmaker Irene Lusztig and Curator Mathilde Walker-Billaud will lead this intensive seminar and deliver both practical advice and creative inspiration to filmmakers, artists and storytellers of all kinds interested in delving into the world of archival research as part of their own creative process. The workshop format will include a dynamic mix of reading, discussion, screening, visitor presentations, a field trip, and presentations by students.

Topics will include: creative strategies allowing the archival research process to inspire new work; ethical, historiographic and creative problems related to appropriation and transformation of “found” material; home movies and other intimate archives; how to locate archival material and work effectively with archivists, libraries, stock footage houses, and other institutions; and understanding fair use and other copyright issues. The goal of the workshop is to inspire and encourage artists of all kinds to better benefit from the rich shared history found in archives everywhere.

Filmmaker Irene Lusztig will lead the seminar as main instructor.


Open to everyone, but designed specifically for filmmakers, documentarists, media and visual artists, archivist and writers.

Give us an idea of who you are and why you are coming. When you register you will be asked for a short statement of interest that should briefly describe your experience in audio practice and a project idea (if you have one, that’s great. If you don’t, you might develop one during the workshop.), plus a bio. There’s a spot for a link to a work sample that you’d like to share with the group (and CV, which would also be nice, but is not required).

$385 early bird registration by September 1st, by 5pm.

$450 regular

The deposit is non-refundable. Should you need to cancel, you’ll receive half of your registration fee back until November 14th. After November 14th, the fee is non-refundable.

In order to keep costs down, this workshop is a BYOL, i.e. bring your own laptop. Students must be fully proficient using and operating their computers.

To register for a workshop, students must pay in full via PayPal. After the early bird registration deadline of November 14th, course fees are not refundable or transferable and any withdrawals or deadlines will result in the full cost of the class being forfeit. There will be no exceptions. To withdraw from a course please email info-at-uniondocs.org.

In the event that a workshop does not receive sufficient enrollment, it may be canceled. Students will be notified at least 48 hours prior to the start of a cancelled workshop and will be refunded within 5 business days. If we reschedule a workshop to another date, students are also entitled to a full refund. UnionDocs reserves the right to change instructors without prior notification, and to change class location and meeting times by up to an hour with 48 hours prior notice.

Please note: Participants are accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis.


Friday, Sep 23, – 10:00 - 5:00p

DAY 1 – The archive in fragments

How can we think with history in the present? The first day of the seminar looks at how we tell stories based on historical research and archival materials. It will explore the ethical, historiographic and creative problems artists face when they thinking, theorizing and work with the speculative past.

Morning: Irene Lusztig (Reconstruction, The Motherhood Archives)

Afternoon: Matt Wolf (Teenage)

Saturday, Sep 24 – 10:00a - 5:00p

DAY 2 – Archival Research  

The second day of the intensive focuses on the research process: how artists work with both archival researchers and archivists; tools available for locating and accessing documents; how archives and copyright issues including fair use function. It will include a field trip.

Morning: Lewanne Jones (Fahrenheit 9/11, The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution )

Afternoon: Field trip to Getty Images (with Lee Shoulders)

Sunday, Sep 25 – 10:00a - 5:00p

DAY 3 – The value of Intimate Archives

The third day expands our discussion by exploring personal archives. We’ll discuss the conservation, appropriation and transformation of intimate materials in the field of documentary art.

Morning: Final presentation, critique and discussion of individual projects

Afternoon: Zoe Beloff

Each day follows this general structure, with some minor variations and substitutions:


Warm up, inspiring references


Presentation by guest speaker




Share / Discussion / Exercise


Lunch (on your own)


Presentation by guest speaker




Workshop Exercise + Critique


Wrap Up



Irene Lusztig is a filmmaker, visual artist, archival researcher, and amateur seamstress. Her film and video work mines old images and technologies for new meanings in order to reframe, recuperate, and reanimate forgotten and neglected histories.  Often beginning with rigorous research in archives, her work brings historical materials into conversation with the present day, inviting the viewer to explore historical spaces as a way of contemplating larger questions of politics, ideology, and the production of personal, collective, and national memories.  Born in England to Romanian parents, Irene grew up in Boston and has lived in France, Italy, Romania, China, and Russia. She received her BA in filmmaking and Chinese studies from Harvard and completed her MFA in film and video at Bard College. Her debut feature film, Reconstruction (2001) was recognized with a Boston Society of Film Critics Discovery award and won best documentary at the New England Film Festival. Her most recent feature-length film is The Motherhood Archives (2013), a feature length archival essay charting the history of the maternal education film from 1919 to the present. She is now working on Yours in Sisterhood, a performative, participatory documentary project based on archived letters sent to the editor of Ms. Magazine, 1972-1980.


Matt Wolf is a filmmaker in New York. His critically acclaimed and award-winning films have played widely in festivals and have been distributed internationally in theaters and on television. Matt’s first feature documentary Wild Combination is about the avant-garde cellist and disco producer Arthur Russell. His second feature Teenage is about the birth of youth culture, based on a book by the British punk author Jon Savage. He is currently making a film about Marion Stokes, who secretly recorded television 24 hours a day for 30 years.  Matt’s work in television includes the HBO Documentary It’s Me, Hilary: The Man Who Drew Eloise, which premiered at Sundance and is Executive Produced by Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner. Most recently Matt was Executive Producer, Showrunner, and Writer on a National Geographic miniseries I Am Rebel alongside Executive Producers Doug Liman and Hypnotic. The series features 1930s crime scene photographer Weegee, the 1970s police brutality activist turned hijacker Louis Moore, psychedelic chemist Alexander Shulgin, and the hacker Kevin Mitnick.  Matt also makes short films including I Remember about the artist and poet Joe Brainard and a recent commission for Time Magazine about the notorious 1990s Benetton advertisement Pieta. Matt has also made commissioned shorts for the New York Times, NPR/Storycorps, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Recent commercial clients include Facebook and US Bank. Matt is a Guggenheim Fellow.


Zoe Beloff works with a wide range of media including film, installation and drawing. She considers an interface between the living and the dead, the real and the imaginary. Each project aims to connect the present to past so that it might illuminate the future in new ways.  Her most recent project “A World Redrawn: Eisenstein and Brecht in Hollywood” explores their as yet unrealized ideas for movies and asks we might learn from them today.  Beloff’s projects have been featured in international exhibitions and screenings; venues include the Whitney Museum of American Art, the M HKA museum in Antwerp, the Pompidou Center in Paris and Freud’s Dream Museum in St. Petersburg. She has been awarded fellowships from. The Graham Foundation, The Guggenheim Foundation, The Foundation for Contemporary Arts, The Radcliffe Institute at Harvard and the New York Foundation for the Arts. She is a Professor in the Departments of Media Studies and Art at Queens College CUNY


Lewanne Jones is an Archival Producer/Research Director for audio-visual productions.  She has worked on many independent, network and public television projects as well as multimedia installations for on-site and web-based exhibitions.  Her expertise includes visuals and general research, project management, database design, and permissions/copyright clearance. Among the many projects that she has contributed to are Eyes on the Prize, ABC’s Century, PBS Frontline and American Experience, and Fahrenheit 911. Recently she worked with Firelight Media on Freedom Riders and The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, both documentaries for PBS that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

She is president of Autonomedia, a Brooklyn-based not-for-profit publishing and media activist collective and is currently working on several independent documentary projects relating to her life experiences in Africa and South America.


Sep 23, 2016 at 10:00 am
Sep 25, 2016 at 5:00 pm


352 Onderdonk Avenue
Ridgewood, NY 11385 United States

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