As a documentary artist, my work explores the critical, technological, and ideological structures that surround the production and consumption of documentary images. Documentary photography involves more than the representation of an external reality: it’s a speculative process that approaches reality and truth as plural, malleable notions open to articulation in different ways. Like the external world that it claims to represent, the documentary image is inherently unstable, dependent on context and on customary languages of realism. For the past ten years I have been producing works that draw on contemporary and historical debates, merging fact, fiction and imagination to reflect on the ways that the real is defined and represented. It treats documentary as a hybrid practice involving not just images, but objects, performance, texts, found-footage and sculptural interventions that investigate the complex nature of perception. Collaboration is essential to my practice, creating a space for the exchange of ideas between myself and the people I work with, and for critical examination of my own position as an artist, often resulting in theatrical documentary photographs.

As a result of a six-year practice based PhD in the arts at the School of Arts KASK University College Ghent (2015-2021) I co-founded The School of Speculative Documentary together with Thomas Bellinck, Michiel De Cleene, An van Dienderen, Rosine Mbakam.

A Manifesto: An Invitation from The School of Speculative Documentary


Guest editors at FOMU Trigger, 2020:
The School of Speculative Documentary are currently guest editors for this years' FOMU Trigger, which will focus on the theme 'Uncertainty'.
What if we allow speculation, messiness and befoggedness to set the conditions for documentary gestures and practices?
Contemporary documentary practice has a crucial role to play within art, mainstream media and activism. It constitutes less a genre, and more ‘a critical method’ in its own right. How can we rethink the documentary attitude conceptually, formally and methodologically? Uncertainty has become documentary’s given. What if this unfinished business of the documentary, creates even more possibilities for speculation and imagination? How can we make decentralized, deformatted and polycentric documentaries, even if we assume that we will never fully succeed?
Trigger #2: 'Uncertainty' aims to explore the potentials, the problems and paradoxes of an openly speculative documentary.
Its printed magazine will be launched during Paris Photo in November 2020. In addition, the contributions will all be published in time on this platform. Trigger is a platform both online and in print dedicated to research, reflection and debate on all things photographic.

Kaaitheater symposium in Brussels, 2019:
On 25 February 2019, The School of Speculative Documentary organized an all-day symposium at Kaaitheater in Brussels, with An van Dienderen, Max Pinckers, Michiel De Cleene, Thomas Bellinck, e.a. During the symposium several questions were raised. How can we rethink the documentary gesture conceptually, formally and methodologically, exposing it to continuous uncertainty, contamination and contestation? How can we draw inspiration from the paradox that any attempt to document a reality, causes it to mutate and evaporate? How can we cut across the traditional boundaries that pigeonhole the documentary into rigid genres? What strategies can we develop to subvert market-driven formats? How can we critically question the power-structures inherent in documentary making? How do we undermine the documentary's authoritative claim to knowledge and truth? How do documentarists deal with their own blind spots and positions of power? How can we shoulder responsibility for the selection mechanisms that define what can and should be perceived, seen, heard, said, thought, made or done?
Between 2015 and 2021 Max Pinckers was affiliated as a researcher to KASK & Conservatorium, the school of arts of HOGENT and howest, financed by the HOGENT Arts Research Fund.

The School of Speculative Documentary is an initiative by Thomas Bellinck, Michiel De Cleene, An van Dienderen, Rosine Mbakam and Max Pinckers. It’s a cross-disciplinary meeting place dedicated to critically questioning the documentary gesture. The artists associated with the School of Speculative Documentary openly embrace uncertainty, messiness and conjecture in their engagement with and creation of multiple and mutable realities.