the- documents.org
the- documents.org is an online platform, collecting, describing, presenting and generating documents of all sorts. It documents documents.

A document can function as something unique, or as something reproducible. A passport is a document, but a leaflet is equally so. Documents abound and vary: a photograph left as a bookmark in a second-hand book, a screenshot in the trash bin, a worn-out note on the pavement testifying to a school assignment and yesterday’s rain. But also a car recording the impact of a crash, a disappointing first photograph, a profanity carved in warm roofing, a slice of a mammoth tree representing historical events, a fragment of charred wood from a utility pole, a list of to-do’s written on the back of a hand. Defining a document involves ideas of communication, information, evidence, inscription, and implies notions of objectivity and neutrality – but the document is neither reducible to one of them, nor is it equal to their sum. Moreover, documents can lie; they can be ephemeral and subject to change. It is hard to pinpoint the document, as it disperses into and is affected by other fields: it is intrinsically tied to the history of media and to important currents in literature, photography and art; it is linked to epistemic and power structures. Despite its ubiquity, and however unwavering and stable it is considered to be, a document confuses.

the-documents.org aims to question what a document is and how it functions. It gathers documents and provides them with a caption – a short textual description, explanation, or digression. But as it collects documents, it also creates documents. In Paper Knowledge, Lisa Gitelman paraphrases documentalist Suzanne Briet, stating that ‘an antelope running wild would not be a document, but an antelope taken into a zoo would be one, presumably because it would then be framed – or reframed – as an example, specimen, or instance.’ The files gathered on the-documents.org are all documents – if they weren’t before publication, they now are. That is what the-documents.org, irreversibly, does. It is a zoo turning an antelope into an ‘antelope’. 

Navigating the website can be done in different ways. There are links in the textual descriptions leading to other documents; there is a collection of all files published; at the right, the sidebar allows users to filter and arrange files based on themes, authors, types, etc. You can hit ‘random’. As the visitor makes his/her/their way through the collection, the-documents.org tracks the entries that have been viewed. It documents the path through the website. Your path can be saved digitally, printed at home, or ordered as a book. As such, the time spent on the-documents.org turns into a new document.

Contact: info [@] the-documents.org

The-documents.org is a project by De Cleene De Cleene; design & development by atelier Haegeman Temmerman.

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Arnout De Cleene & Michiel De Cleene combine a background in literature and photography with an interest in the document and the documentary. Topics vary. The poetics of blockchain. Mount Vesuvius’ 1872 eruption. Coppicing near a highway parking lot. An architect’s photographic archive. Etc. Research leads to artist books, as well as essays, lectures and exhibitions. They conduct research at KASK & Conservatory, School of Arts, Gent.
www.decleenedecleene.be
contact: info [@] decleenedecleene.be

This project was made possible with the support of the Flemish Government and KASK, the School of Arts of HOGENT and Howest.

 

Briet, S. Qu’est-ce que la documentation? Paris: Edit, 1951. 
Gitelman, L. Paper Knowledge. Toward a Media History of Documents. Durham/London: Duke University Press, 2014.
Oxford English Dictionary Online. Accessed on 13.05.2021.

16.06.2024 Your path through the collection lead along  A Transparent Forest.

During the second half of April 2018, passers-by complained on Twitter about the massive chopping of trees and bushes in the area of the park site in Ranst, Belgium, along the E313 highway, in close proximity to the city of Antwerp. 

Initially, the Department of Road and Highway Maintenance answered on Twitter that no pruning activities had taken place. They wouldn’t want to disturb breeding birds. But soon after, they admitted to the pruning. Their argumentation took a turn: ‘These are pruning activities in the context of the transmigration-problem on parking lots, as requested by the Police Department and the State Governor, so that transmigrants will no longer be able to hide. In the future, we will take up this discussion in our pruning policy for the upcoming breeding season.’ 

Upon closer investigation (an inquiry by Nature Inspection), the scale of the chopping became clear. The trees closest to the highway and the parking lot were chopped, while other trees were pruned at the bottom. Species such as European black elderberry, maple tree, sorbus, hazel, English holly, wild black cherry and breaking buckthorn disappeared. Rare species, only found in ancient forests, such as Solomon’s seal, were severely damaged. 

These activities resulted in what the investigators described as a ‘transparent forest’ – a forest without density at lower levels, which is ecologically speaking not valuable. It has no ‘forest feeling’.

In spring 2024 the-documents.org and Trigger co-publish a series of online articles with a focus on the meeting ground between photography and the document.

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