DocX

DocX logo.

X as variable has guided the intentions of the Center for Documentary Studies’ DocX initiative since its inception — the idea that its projects will evolve as the practice of documentary evolves. The spirit of DocX remains a constant, driven by what documentary artists need to make their work most resonant in the world.

Any DocX programming strives to be a nourishing overall experience for artists. DocX works alongside other CDS programs and with departments across Duke University to meet the critical need for artists to be supported and nurtured in their imaginative thinking, exploring and questioning. Residencies, awards, workshops, mentorship and collaborative labs give artists, researchers and curators the communal and financial support necessary to help further develop their bold visions.

DocX Development Lab–Otherwise Histories, Otherwise Futures (2024)

Red text over tan background: DocX Development Lab, Otherwise Histories, Otherwise Futures.

DocX has launched a new lab, the DocX Development Lab–Otherwise Histories, Otherwise Futures, to support artists and researchers whose archival practices, documentary art practices and scholarship seek to explore the history and possibility of living, thinking, being and sensing otherwise.

Learn about the cohort that gathered in Durham from April 4-12, 2024.

History of DocX

The DocX pilot was funded from 2015–2020 by the Reva and David Logan Foundation with further support provided by the Revada Foundation. It has been an incubation space for developing and sharing innovative platforms, tools, ideas and opportunities around nonfiction storytelling, including: CDS DocBoX, an experiment in deep interactive “TV” that broadcasts content from CDS’s moving image archive; CDS Shortwave, where sound is the doorway to CDS’s work in the documentary arts; and the Susan E. Tifft Initiative on Documentary and Journalism, including the Susan Tifft Fellows program, unlocking potential for intersections across those fields.

From 2020 to 2022, the DocX initiative entered its next phase of evolution: to support BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) artists and thought leaders working across the nonfiction landscape and charting more accountable, nonextractive documentary paths and practices. To reimagine what documentary work looks and sounds like, DocX nurtured the imaginative exploration and questioning of artists and curators of color who boldly interrogated form and ways of collaborating.

DocX Archive Lab–How Are We Known? Reimagining, Repurposing & Rewriting the Archive (2021-2022)

Text made to look like old-fashioned label maker: DocX archive lab: How are we known? Reimagining, repurposing and rewriting the archive.

As the first project in this iteration under DocX Director Stephanie Owens, the initiative presented the virtually hosted DocX Archive Lab, How Are We Known? Reimagining, Repurposing, and Rewriting the Archive.

The tattered boxes underneath grandma’s bed, the movements of our bodies, the smell of a sacred family recipe—all make up what we uniquely know about ourselves. But the collective archive, in all its iterations—documentary practices, works of literature, art practices, academic publishing, museums, library collections, etc.— becomes the formal means by which a society knows and remembers itself. It is the long memory of who “we” were, who “we” are, and who constitutes “we.”

Historically, the authorship of society’s long memory of BIPOC life has been fixed within, for, and by the colonial and white gaze. As makers, the archives in which we explore and from which we pull are oftentimes rooted in extractive colonial practices.

The DocX Archive Lab was born of these questions: How will we be remembered, how do we want to be remembered, and who will remember us? Once we wrest the power to author our own stories, who will we speak to?

As Toni Morrison wrote in Beloved, “Freeing yourself was one thing. Claiming ownership of that freed self was another.”

The lab was a space for BIPOC artists to invest deeply in their art practices and to be in communion with these questions, as well as imagine nonextractive practices of our own; interrogate what it means to listen and hear community, and ourselves; weigh our embodied and situated knowledge; and trouble matters of address and agency. 

What could manifest when we repurpose, reimagine and rewrite the documentation of who we are?

The DocX Archive Lab, How Are We Known?, started on September 24, 2021, and virtually hosted seven selected fellows across documentary practices — including film, video, writing, audio, installation, oral history, photography and new media — allowing them space to explore, pose questions and create with Lead Artist Facilitator Nyssa Chow (oral historian, writer and interdisciplinary artist), Lead Artist Lab Collaborator Martine Granby (nonfiction filmmaker, assistant professor of documentary journalism at the University of Connecticut) and a slate of guest artists, some of whom included Dorothy Berry (Digital Collections Program Manager, Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences Houghton Library), Greg de Cuir Jr. (curator, writer), Christopher Harris (filmmaker; still/here, Distant Shores), Onyeka Igwe (artist, filmmaker; No Archive Can Restore You), Sofía Gallisá Muriente (visual artist; Lluvia con nieve), and CC Paschal (audio journalist; Louder Than A Riot, Invisibilia, The Heart).

Over eight months, the lab consisted of artist talks, ideation meetings, readings, screenings and creative exercises, which were divided into monthly modules inspired by the specialized perspectives of visiting artists. The lab culminated in an in-person weekend-long retreat held at CDS on May 13-15, 2022.

Fellows received $3,000 for their committed participation and engagement with the lab. Fellows were also asked to share some of their insights and learnings from the lab by creating an offering for the community in which they reside, or from which their work derives.

DocX Archive Lab Fellows

  • Jen Everett
  • Tatiana Garnett
  • Beatriz Guzman Velasquez
  • Arlene Mejorado
  • Allison Minto
  • Devon Vonnie Smith
  • Xiaolu Wang

DocBoX, an experiment in deep interactive “TV,” broadcasts content from CDS’s moving image archive, as well as from the H. Lee Waters Film Collection at the Archive of Documentary Arts in Duke’s Rubenstein Library.

DocBoX draws on analog, and random, modes of discovery to create new ways of interacting with digital media, inviting visitors to slow down and explore.

Go to cdsdocbox.org on a desktop brower, connect your smartphone, and use it to navigate four channels of content featuring highlights from our video archives — the experience will be different each time you visit. (The site has no menus other than those appearing on your phone, which serves as your remote control and dial.)

CDS Shortwave, a project of the DocX initiative, is an experiment in new approaches to nonfiction storytelling, a digital space with an analog soul that invites visitors to slow down, explore and discover.

An old shortwave radio in our offices was our inspiration and guiding metaphor, for its suggestion/connotations of transmitting and receiving, of participation and discovery across great distances. In this intimate, immersive environment, sound is the doorway to experiencing the breadth and depth of CDS’s renowned work in the documentary arts — in audio, photography, film, writing and new media.

Turn the dial on our “deep radio” to navigate its stations, and the places in between, to hear, see and interact with stories, lost signals, spatial audio and community-sourced sounds. Some pieces are audio-only, some open into rich media presentations. The discoveries will be different every time you visit.

Play with the full version of cdsshortwave.org on a desktop to access all of the media and use your smartphone as a virtual dial, or listen in using the mobile version—with your phone as a portable radio.