Within film studies found footage is most commonly understood as related to contemporary documentary practices.1 Its principle dynamic, of "retrieval and recycling" of moving images to re-interpret their original narrative context, offers documentary film makers both a cheap resolution to small budgets and a philosophically rich terrain in which to explore contemporary society and its relationship to media images.2 From the humorous and politically acerbic Roger and me (dir. Michael Moore) to the most plodding and mundane television documentaries and their use of the media institution's moving-image archive, found footage has become a standard documentary practice.
In the following discussion, however, I want to concentrate on found footage as a practice within art contexts, the way in which some of this work operates as a form of critical and experimental documentary practice. In looking at Matthew Buckingham's Situation leading to a story (1999) we can explore this work's engagement with found footage as historical artefact or document and a recurrent questioning of the archive itself as representation. The assumed authority of the archive and historical representation is targeted by the destabilization which occurs through much found-footage moving-image practice.3 Here the use of found footage is related to an emphasis on history and memory, allowing the artist/filmmaker/viewer the opportunity to explore debates on documentary as representative of objectivity, authenticity, truth, fiction and the factual in relation to the moving image