the- documents.org
the-documents.org
is an online platform, collecting, describing, presenting and generating documents of all sorts. It documents documents.
Your path through the collection lead along .
De Cleene De Cleene (ed.), the-documents.org, printed on 25.10.2021

What constitutes a ‘document’ and how does it function? A document has trouble defining itself. 

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the etymo-logical origin derives from 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 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 acted upon 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 continuously gathers documents and provides them with a short textual description, explanation, or digression, written by multiple authors. In Paper Knowledge, Lisa Gittelman 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 gathered files 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’.

As you made your way through the collection, the-documents.org tracked the entries you viewed. It documented your path through the website. As such, the time spent on the-documents.org turned into this – a new document. 

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

The-documents.org has been online since 23 May 2021.