Saturday, February 20, 2010 at 8:00 p.m.

Theater 1 (The Roy and Niuta Titus Theater 1), T1
The Museum of Modern Art
11 West Fifty-third Street, NYC

NEW YORK— On February 20th at 8pm, the 2010 edition of Documentary Fortnight, MoMA’s ninth annual international festival of nonfiction film, will showcase innovative documentary art produced by the Brooklyn non-profit, UnionDocs. The presentation, Inductive Thread, promises to be a lively event, weaving together short works in film, video, radio, photography, written essay, and live performance. The first part of the show touches on the history of the organization, its rotating body of participants, and their collaborative exploration of topics from the death of payphones to the popularity of currywurst.

The second part will premiere a brand new project from the newly minted “UnionDocs Collaborative”, a year-long program for non-fiction media research and group production. Twelve young artists coming from diverse backgrounds were selected to participate in this groundbreaking endeavor. With no previous experience together, they have been working to produce a project which assembles a variety of inter-related stories, each approaching the task of documentary from a different angle. Partly inspired by Roland Barthes classic Mythologies, a slim volume from 1957 composed of many short but revelatory essays, this ongoing multi-media project seeks to interrogate some of the myths that underlie everyday life.

So, where is this creative non-fiction work springing from? At 322 Union Ave in Williamsburg, Brooklyn you will find the building that houses the ambitious outfit responsible for producing Inductive Thread. During the week, the building is bustling with the activities of the small UnionDocs staff and the participants in the Collaborative Program. Classes, workshops, group debate, guest critiques, and regular production work abound in the space. In addition, six of the participants in the year long program take advantage of the residency option, living in the apartments above the ground floor commercial studio.

On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights, UnionDocs is open to the public, serving as a micro-cinema, a lecture-hall, or a gallery, adapting to diverse programming of documentary film, radio listening events, and photography. Very often the artist responsible for the work is in tow to participate in the lively, sometimes contentious, discussion that invariably follows the events.

Founded in 2003 by Christopher Allen, Johanna Linsley, Jesse Shapins, and Paul Kiel, UnionDocs began as a small group of artists exploring different methods of working together. Simultaneously they took on the huge task of renovating 322 Union Ave to suit their growing needs. They left very little untouched of the unique building, which dates from 1898 and is rumored to have once been the borough’s only three-storey liquor store. In 2005, the organization became a non-profit and focused it’s efforts around the full-time exploration of documentary arts.

“The point is to facilitate dialogue, experimentation, new ideas and approaches. It’s an idealistic space,” founder and Executive Director, Christopher Allen admits, “and, sometimes, it works.”


Produced by the Brooklyn non-profit UnionDocs, this two-part program combines short works in film, video, radio, photography, written essay, and live performance, engaging multiple subjects and diverse aesthetic approaches to documentary arts. The first part touches on the history of the organization, its rotating body of participants, and their collaborative exploration of topics from the death of payphones to the popularity of currywurst. The second is an investigation of myth in contemporary society, an excerpt from an ongoing project that shares many inspirations, including the experimental laboratory of the Bauhaus and the collection of short but revelatory essays within Roland Barthes’s classic 1957 text Mythologies.

Presentations by UnionDocs founders: Christopher Allen, Executive Director; Jesse Shapins, Kara Oehler, and Johanna Linsley; UnionDocs programmer, Steve Holmgren, and UnionDocs Collaborative participants.

For participant bios please see

INDUCTIVE THREAD is part of the Documentary Fortnight Daylong Symposium: Community and Collaborative Filmmaking—Media Arts Centers. In addition to UnionDocs, the symposium includes two other U.S.-based initiatives: Appalshop in Whitesburg, Kentucky, which began in 1968 as an experiment in community-based filmmaking and economic growth, and supports films that celebrate Appalachian culture and an Indonesian video exchange project; and New York City’s Deep Dish Television, which generates grass-roots film and television.


Based in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, UnionDocs is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization. Our mission is to present a broad range of innovative and thought-provoking non-fiction projects to the general public, while also cultivating specialized opportunities for learning, critical discourse, and creative collaboration for emerging media-makers, theorists, and curators.

Our local screenings, exhibitions and lectures attract people from New York City and beyond, promoting dialogue about significant social questions and expanding popular awareness of the documentary arts. Expert panels and discussions from these events are recorded, archived, and made available online to growing national and international audiences. For individuals in their early careers, The UnionDocs Collaborative is a program that deeply engages current modes of non-fiction and facilitates the annual production of a group project.

UnionDocs seeks to support compelling, creative work in this field because we believe that documentary art, when paired with thoughtful context and open debate, is an invaluable tool for understanding the complexities of contemporary life and creating a better society.