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Dr. Renate Wöhrer

Research Project

The Category of the Documentary as a Point of Intersection between Artistic Knowledge Production and Extra-Artistic Information Processing

Although the category of the documentary appears self-evident to us, it resists any unequivocal determination when we attempt to define it. This research project attempts to more precisely articulate this category as it applies to visual representation by returning to its historical formation in the beginning of the twentieth century and tracing its transformations into the present day. Against assumptions in existing scholarship, the research shows that the category of the documentary was not established through differentiation from artistic representation but rather in order to name an overlapping space of artistic and extra-artistic modes of representation that aimed to produce and exploit knowledge. The project examines the ongoing, successive re-determination of the relationship between artistic and non-artistic elements of knowledge-exploitation in the context of documentary practices. It follows the working hypothesis that documentary representations in the visual arts exist in relation to transformations of conceptions, forms, and concepts of the documentary in non-artistic areas.


Renate Wöhrer studied art history at the Universities of Vienna and Hamburg. She was subsequently a fellow of the Research Training Group “InterArt/Interart Studies” at the Freie Universität Berlin, where she completed her PhD at the Institute for Art History with a dissertation examining contemporary documentary art projects that address changes in the world of work. After completing her PhD, she worked as a research associate at the Collaborative Research Center “Aesthetic Experience and the Dissolution of Artistic Limits” at the Freie Universität Berlin, where she conducted research on the genealogy of documentary practices of representation. She has taught as a lecturer at the Freie Universität Berlin, the Catholic Private University Linz, and the University of Graz. She is also a qualified social and diversity trainer.

Publications and Lectures

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Publikationen und Vorträge