We Tell: Fifty Years of Participatory Community Media

Series Site

December 12 – December 17
“We Tell: Fifty Years of Participatory Community Media,” a national traveling exhibition, chronicles the hidden histories of place-based documentaries that situate their collaborative practices in specific locales, communities, and needs for social and political change.

Participatory community media represents a unique form of short documentary practice produced with communities and the subjects engaged in decision-making and representation. These works embrace and enhance the micro rather than the macro as a production strategy. They shift discourse and debate from the national to the local. Instead of the long-form theatrical feature, participatory community media utilizes the short-form documentary circulating within and across communities and politics.

Rather than one auteur with a single vision, subjects and communities share authorship. Rather than parachuting into a place during a crisis, these works emerge out of spaces confronting urgent unresolved issues that have a direct impact on communities. Rather than documentary as a commodity to be consumed passively in a festival, gallery, or broadcast venue, these works envision documentary practice as a way to generate dialogues and galvanize community connections across production, distribution, and exhibition.

The works featured in “We Tell” are organized into six thematic programs. Each explores salient topics erupting across fifty years of this practice of a documentary of utility and urgency: Body Publics; Collaborative Knowledges; Environments of Race and Place; Wages of Work; States of Violence; Turf. Each of the thematic programs is organized chronologically to show the development of ideas, media technologies, and politics.

Curated by Louis Massiah, Scribe Video Center, and Patricia R. Zimmermann (Ithaca College), with research and archival assistance from XFR Collective. Support for “We Tell: Fifty Years of Participatory Community Media” is provided by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, with additional support from Scribe Video Center.