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

What constitutes a ‘document’ and how does it function? 

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the etymological origin is the Latin ‘documentum’, meaning ‘lesson, proof, instance, specimen’. As a verb, it is ‘to prove or support (something) by documentary evidence’, and ‘to provide with documents’. The online version of the OED includes a draft addition, whereby a document (as a noun) is ‘a collection of data in digital form that is considered a single item and typically has a unique filename by which it can be stored, retrieved, or transmitted (as a file, a spreadsheet, or a graphic)’. The current use of the noun ‘document’ is defined as ‘something written, inscribed, etc., which furnishes evidence or information upon any subject, as a manuscript, title-deed, tomb-stone, coin, picture, etc.’ (emphasis added). 

Both ‘something’ and that first ‘etc.’ leave ample room for discussion. A document doubts whether it functions as something unique, or as something reproducible. A passport is a document, but a flyer printed in offset equally so. Moreover, there is a circular reasoning: to document is ‘to provide with documents’. Defining (the functioning of) a document most likely involves ideas of communication, information, evidence, inscriptions, and implies notions of objectivity and neutrality – but the document is neither reducible to one of them, nor is it equal to their sum. It is hard to pinpoint it, 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. However ubiquitous it is, as an often tangible thing in our environment, and as a concept, a document deranges.

The-documents.org gathers documents and provides them with a short textual description, explanation, or digression, written by multiple authors. Regularly, new files will be added, and old files will be altered. 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 this website are all documents – if they weren’t before publication, they now are. That is what this website, 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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De Cleene De Cleene is Michiel De Cleene and Arnout De Cleene. Together they form a research group that focusses on novel ways of approaching the everyday, by artistic means and from a cultural and critical perspective.
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.

24.05.2024 Your path through the collection lead along  Negative sheet 21, negative 24, negative 24,5.

A malfunctioning of the camera leading to a double-exposed negative. The car is decisive in establishing the relationship between the superimposed photographs. In the middle of the image, we see it parked in front of the house. Slightly less visible is the same car, repeated but further away. This makes it possible to deduce that the dark outline of the house, with the roof and the chimney, is also the same house as in the other photograph. This time, the house is photographed relatively frontally (the slightly angled point of view allows to bring the shed at the back of the house in the line of sight), and from nearby. At the bottom left, the lines that make up the street help to see the continuity of the one photograph, while the electric wires at the top right aid to comprehend the other one. 

The camera malfunction speculates on a future addition to the plot. The dark, outlined shed’s scale is realistic with regards to the scale of the house and itself (the shed) in the other photograph. Its position with regards to the other buildings seems logical. It imposes itself as a possible second shed for the owner to build in the next few years. In that future shed, the car, now standing in front of the house, could be comfortably parked.

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